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Ordinary people: solution to student accommodation crisis

Liezl Hesketh in Student accommodation 


Holidays are over and post-Christmas realities start to bite.  New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten and real life kicks in.  This is the time of the year when school leavers, students, their parents and tertiary institutions start to panic.  The focus until now has been results, getting into the university or colleges of their choice, but now they’ve been accepted, the real crisis is revealed:  if you didn’t get into res, where will you find suitable student accommodation close to campus?

The media has been full of reports of student accommodation not being ready in time, as reported last week by Die Burger (Talle sal nie in koshuise kan in trek) where Stellenbosch University accommodation will not be ready for the arrival of students.  And again by News24 and PropertyWheel, highlighting the scale of the shortage of student beds across the country.  According to them, there is a shortfall of 207 800 beds for university students as well as a further 400 000 FET college students, of which the majority will require student accommodation.  It is, therefore, fair to assume that at least half a million students will require off-campus student rooms this year.

And the solution that is being offered, is simply to build more and build faster.  But we believe they might be missing a trick.  Building new student accommodation is definitely part of the solution, but the reality is that they will never catch up.  Universities and FETs are growing year on year, so the shortage persists.  So what’s the alternative?  Is there another solution?


We think that the thinking should be a little more lateral.  Collaborative Consumption (also known as the Sharing Economy) should definitely be considered and promoted in South Africa to alleviate the student accommodation crisis.

What is Collaborative Consumption?

Collaborative Consumption is also known as ‘The Sharing Economy’.  Resources are shared to maximise their efficiency.  What one person has in excess, they share with another person who is in need.  Examples of where this concept has been used, includes: car sharing, home-exchange, renting out spare office space, renting out under-used factory equipment, sharing lifts for long journeys etc.

How do we apply this to the student accommodation crisis?

There are a number of South Africans who have extra, unused rooms, which can be converted to create good quality student accommodation.  If only the message could go out to ordinary people to let them know that they hold the key to one of the solutions to this crisis.  It is something that has worked in other parts of the world, and we think it should work here.

Why do it?

The obvious question that follows is:  Why will people want to do it?  To which the answer is simple:  Money.  On average, students pay between R2 000 for shared accommodation, up to R5 000 for luxury student accommodation per month, with an average being around R3 000.  We can do the easy maths to see what the additional income to a household can be, if they shared one room:

Single room:  R3 000 x 12 = R36 000 per month

Shared room: R2 000 x 2 12 = R48 000 per month

This is the fastest way a family can generate enough extra money to pay for either necessities or luxuries.  It could pay all the bills for an average household, pay for a luxury family holiday, or could in turn pay for your child’s accommodation while they’re at university!  For the older generation, this additional income could supplement pension funds or even enable older people to stay in the family home rather than downsize.

How do I find suitable students?

Finding suitable students is a daunting prospect for many – but has simplified the process of connecting renters and rooms through an easy-to-use, profile based website.  This process is now safer, more secure and transparent.  More information is available to both parties, and property owners are put in the driving seat:  rather than waiting to be contacted, they can contact prospective renters directly.

Now the question is:  is South Africa ready for Collaborative Consumption?

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