Seven students live in the Hajraa House at Kerkstraat 7A. Four of them are holding not tenancy agreements but loan contracts in which the landlord has set the notice period at just two weeks. Housing association Sint Trudo has been giving these loan contracts to new residents of student premises since 2015. The organization is keen to have the option of clearing the premises in order to convert them into social housing. Lucas van Cappellen, Master's student of Sustainable Energy Technology, was the first person to hold this type of contract for the Hajraa House.
“The Hajraa House is very important to the association,” says Van Cappellen. “All the residents are closely involved in the association and we are the people all the members come to if they have any questions. We organize a lot of activities like reunions, barbecues and the odd-jobs week for the outdoor tournament. What's more, the house is where things are stored, odd-job equipment, for example, the board's archive, and sports clothing that we have for sale.”
The seven residents have been in talks with Trudo since 2015 to establish what options exist for keeping the house. Van Cappellen stresses that the housing association has been helpful in coming up with ideas. “We saw four options. The first was that Trudo would make an exception for Hajraa. That second that Vestide would take over the premises and keep it going as a student house. In exchange, Trudo would be allowed to convert a Vestide house into social housing.” No interest was shown in these two possibilities.
Similarly, the third option, finding an external investor, was unsuccessful. “That would mean Trudo having to sell the house while it was being rented and being able to achieve only 60 percent of its value,” clarifies Van Cappellen. “Which leaves our fourth plan, which is the one we prefer because it involves us buying the house ourselves.” For a year now, the residents, together with two former occupants, have been working together in a foundation whose first task was to assess the feasibility of the plan, and which is now in the phase of recruiting participants.
Hajraa wants to use a share system to raise half of the six hundred thousand euros needed to buy the house. The remainder can be raised in the form of a mortgage. Those who attended the foundation's first info evening held in April seem likely, given the interest forms they completed, to take up half of the shares. For any questions about the share scheme, you can send an email to Hajraa.
Van Cappellen is confident that everything will work out. “Having had the house for fifty years no less, we are working really hard to make this happen. We have drawn up a long-range maintenance plan, described the risks for the participants, looked closely at the insurances we'll need …We are going to appeal once again to our Hajraa contacts.” And if we aren't successful? “Then we will have done everything we could to keep the Hajraa House.”