City releases vacant buildings

Kruger Park flats will now house students. Thulani Mbele
Kruger Park flats will now house students. Thulani Mbele

A shortage of student accommodation in Tshwane may soon be relieved as the metro offloads some of its buildings to the private sector to be turned into decent affordable housing for students.

The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) was forced to shut down and suspend classes temporarily early this year following student protests in which the shortage of accommodation was among the key issues.

Three weeks ago, the city received tender proposals as its initiative to turn some of its dilapidated high-rises into student accommodation, including Kruger Park in the inner city, is about to take off.

The 32-storey Kruger Park building was evacuated in 2008 after a fire gutted some of the floors, killing five people who were trapped inside.

Over the years, the building was stripped of aluminium frames and other valuable materials by criminals.

The city has now made the building and six other properties, including vacant land in various parts of the city, available for development.

Municipal spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the city had a large number of students due to it being home to "three large universities, a number of government [offices] and private colleges".

"As a result, there is a demand for affordable student accommodation. This is confirmed by a number of studies conducted."

Mashigo said the initiative would benefit the students as affordable accommodation would be closer to areas of their learning.

In his maiden state of the city address last month, Tshwane mayor Stevens Mokgalapa said he had delivered on his promise made when he took over in February by, among other things, releasing Kruger Park and Melgisedek complexes for student accommodation.

Lucky Nkambule, SRC president at the TUT Soshanguve campus, said they welcome the move but felt it would have had more impact had the properties been situated near campuses in the townships.

"The problem of accommodation at TUT has been a generational issue. This is a great initiative and it would help," Nkambule said.

However, he said students who were more suffering with regards to shortages (of accommodation) were those based at Garankuwa and Soshanguve campuses, north of the city.

"Students at township campuses are suffering the most as they're forced to live in backyard rooms... they need decent accommodation which leads to academic excellence," Nkambule said.

mahlangui@sowetan.co.za

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