Wallonia to build 500 new university rooms to help poorest students

Wallonia to build 500 new university rooms to help poorest students
Student Kot at Brussels' VUB university. Credit: Belga / Herwig Vergult

The Walloon region is set to construct 500 kots – small-scale student accommodation – across Belgium’s French-speaking region, with an envisaged total budget of €30 million, La Libre Belgique reports.

While it is not typically the competency of the Walloon region to build student accommodation, Minister of Local Government and Housing, Christophe Collignon, aims to support the region’s students.

“This is something important because even if we are in a country where access to studies is more democratic than elsewhere, we can still see that there is more and more precariousness among students. It is not normal that young people cannot study because, financially, they grew up poor,” the minister told the Belgian daily newspaper.

The minister notes that rents for basic student flats, which are typically bedsits or studios, are often “excessive” and unaffordable for many students. The price of a kot rose by 10% higher than usual at the end of last year, with universities experiencing a severe shortage of student rooms.

Elevated prices for student rooms

“The price per square metre of student accommodation is three times higher than for rentals as a main residence in Wallonia,” the minister explained. He also notes that supply of kots in Wallonia is “short and the rate of production of kots is lower than the growth in demand, which reinforces the rise in rents.”

As such, the Walloon region intends to step in to correct the market failure. Wallonia will officially launch a call for projects from July 2023, which will involve the participation of universities and housing companies.

Additional subsidies intend to subsidise the construction of student-appropriate and affordable accommodation. “Previously, the subsidy was €150,000 for a building with five bedrooms. Now, the subsidy will reach €245,000 for a five bedroom as well,” Collignon said. An additional €14,000 will be allocated if the buildings are built sustainably.

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The completed properties will then be marketed by Social Property Agencies (AIS) with a further incentive of €10,000 per student kot. The objective, the minister says, is to quickly make 300 kots available to students. The Minister has also commissioned a study of kot rents, which will lead to the development of a pricing mechanism. This should be completed by the summer.

The Walloon region plans to review its existing zero-rate loan mechanism for rental deposits, which is currently made available to students. The new loan scheme will be reoriented “towards students who work to pay for their studies.”

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