Creating more student homes involves more than just building. It's also about re-zoning, encouraging upsizing and downsizing and looking at neighboring municipalities. “It takes just as long to travel in by train from Best as it does to cycle from, say, Meerhoven,” explains Yasin Torunoglu, the councilor with housing and urban planning in his portfolio. He recalls the goal at the start of his political career: a vibrant student city within the ring. “That is no longer a viable option.”
The last Student Housing Covenant, which likewise covered an eight-year period, expired on January 1st 2020. Its successor took a little while to appear. It proved time-consuming to establish the current situation and wishes of students, said Torunoglu, TU/e Executive Board member Nicole Ummelen and Ingrid de Boer, director of Woonbedrijf on Monday during a small press conference.
As well as the municipality, TU/e and Woonbedrijf Vestide, the covenant has another seven signatories: Summa College, Fontys, the Design Academy, Vastgoed Belang (a national interest group for private owners of real estate), Brainport Development, Holland Expat Center South and a delegation of student representatives.
Ummelen, vice president of the Executive Board, emphasizes that as well as students, doctoral candidates and PDEng trainees will also benefit from the results of the plan. Though predicting student numbers years in advance is, she remarks, an impossible task. “This year, for example, we had expected fewer enrollments due to corona, but that proved unjustified. Slightly fewer internationals enrolled, but at the same time many school leavers decided to skip their planned gap year.”
The number of 2840 extra student homes, therefore, is the product of careful consideration and “our best guess”, in the words of Ummelen. And so the covenant will work with annual plans and midway through the period there will be an opportunity to review and revise. Adjusting the objectives will be possible at any time, adds Torunoglu. But if it does become necessary to take swift action, that will be fine too, says Ummelen: “Just look, for example, at the three hundred temporary units that were installed in 2019 at the Berenkuil.”
The new covenant is looking not just at numbers, but also at types of student housing. Student representative Reijn van den Burg is pleased, “The last covenant focused exclusively on studios. At the time, they were badly needed, but I am pleased that now as well as quality, consideration is also being given to a wider selection of quality options.”
Vestide has taken stock of the wishes of students when it comes to location, rent and housing type. After all, what a first-year student wants is different than a master's student, says Ingrid de Boer, Woonbedrijf director. Thus there is a need for student houses, but also for studios and apartments for couples or friends.
Eindhoven is equally keen to see its graduates stay local - according to Torunoglu this is one of the principles of the covenant, which therefore seeks to ensure affordable rented accommodation and home ownership for this group. Moreover, this will encourage upsizing, so that wherever possible student homes remain available to students.
Van den Burg appreciates the way in which the covenant does not treat students as people passing through, but as fully fledged residents of Eindhoven. Councilor Torunoglu is thrilled by the idea of students doing their bit for the neighborhood in which they live. “While the thought of organizing a street party may keep the average neighborhood resident awake at night, students could get it arranged in no time.” Municipality, TU/e, Fontys and the Design Academy are keen to support initiatives like this via Stehven, and anyone renting through Vestide can ask the Neighborhood Fund for support.
Likewise, where students are living amongst themselves - as they do on the TU/e campus, where on the site of the former Paviljoen two residential towers with 700 housing units will be constructed, bringing the total number of those living on campus to 1450 - livability is also a priority. From the outset students have been involved in generating ideas about the new build, in order to ensure that a community emerges.
“A village on the banks of the Dommel”, in the words of Ummelen. She also mentions the special attention in the covenant paid to internationals. “We speak to them before they arrive and so we know their wishes, which certainly include a fine ‘bubble’.”
What the covenant does not dwell on is the intention of councilor Torunoglu to crack down on illegal student houses. This has been prompted by the rule introduced last year that new student houses may not be sited within thirty meters of an existing premises renting rooms. This rule also applies with retroactive force to premises that have been split up into rental units without the proper permit. Initial estimates suggest 1700 students are affected by this development and alarmed student organizations are fighting the cause of this group to prevent them ending up homeless.
Torunoglu is unhappy with the turn of events - especially the rather “poor timing” involved in the communication, which has cast a shadow over the presentation of the new covenant, and is pitting the municipality and the student population against one another.
In the coming years, the municipality would like no students at all to be evicted from their rented homes, as he is keen to point out. “My only intention has been to announce that we will be taking stock of the situation and where possible will be seeking solutions.” Only when premises are not eligible for a customized solution will the appropriate legal steps be taken to remove tenants, says Torunoglu. “But it's not as bad as all that. And I am certainly not opposed to the rental of rooms in the city.”
Student representative Mirko Bolsenbroek has mixed feelings. “We are really pleased with this covenant, which offers a solution to the accommodation shortage. But this policy rule is not helpful.” Torunoglu takes a different view. To his mind, it is combating rogue rentals - an objective stated in the covenant - good for everyone, including students. “This is clear from the reports about these rotten apples that have been received by the tenancy team set up last year.”
But if illegal student houses are going to disappear, isn't the ambition to provide 2840 extra student homes actually overambitious, especially with the housing market as tight as it is? “I don't think so,” concludes Torunoglu, “The last covenant set a target of 1500 extra student homes, and we achieved that. I have every faith that this time too we'll achieve our goal.”