‘We hope the municipality will be open to our ideas’

| Michaela Nesvarova

A temporary hostel or a cruise ship in the Enschede harbor. Those were some of the ideas mentioned during the Student Housing Challenge. The event, focused on solving the student housing crisis in Twente, took place past weekend in the DesignLab at the UT.

The Student Housing Challenge was organized by EnschedeLAB and Keeping Talent in Twente, with the goal of finding long-term solutions to the shortage of rooms for international students. During Friday and Saturday, the open event attracted thirty to forty participants, informs one of the organizers Wiro Kuipers. ‘We welcomed all different types of people: students, teachers, but also housing corporations, social housing representatives and even interested citizens.’

new housing

During the event, housing corporations Domijn and Vechtdal Wonen shared their plans for constructing more student housing in the near future. According to them, the intentions are to create extra units on Boulevard UT, Performance Factory (in downtown Enschede) and Kennispark Twente. This accommodation is meant for young professionals and building of these new projects could start in 2022/2023.

‘The most important takeaway of the event was how important and valuable it is to consider the students’ perspective,’ says Kuipers. ‘Being in the room with the actual people who experience the challenge was really worthwhile and offered great insights. For example, we found out that there is no clear point of information where students can find details about housing.’

Harbor or airport

Some specific ideas for solutions were discussed during the challenge as well. ‘The participants came up with the idea to have temporary hostels or to get a cruise ship in the Enschede harbor, where students could temporarily live,’ says Kuipers. ‘This would be a good solution for August and September, when the housing supply generally doesn’t match the demand. A cruise ship might be difficult to get, but you could think of using locations that are empty at the time, such as campsites or the hangars at the Twente airport.’

‘We even had regular citizens coming over and offering their private land,’ adds Nadhila Savira, one of the organizers from Keeping Talent in Twente. ‘People offered their plots for building tiny houses, for example. That is very special. It shows that many people are willing to help, but there are often practical obstacles. For instance, the municipality of Enschede isn’t always open to giving out permits for new projects, such as tiny houses. We hope to see some movement from the municipality as well. We hope they will be open to our ideas.’

The whole region

The insights and ideas gathered during the Student Housing Challenge will be presented to the regional committee dealing with student housing, as well as to all the participants. ‘I hope this will help to get everyone on the same page,’ says Savira. ‘The housing problem is not limited to students, of course, but Enschede prides itself on being a student city. They should therefore ask themselves if they really want more students to come and what they need in order to accommodate them all.’

‘It would be awesome to tackle this issue together with the whole region, not just Enschede,’ concludes Kuipers. ‘Students are often used to travelling. If they need to live in Weerselo or another location in Twente, it might not be ideal, but it is doable if there is good public transport or other solutions like scooters. If the region wants to keep talent in Twente, then the region needs to tackle this as a whole.’

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