Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, No. 1, March 1, 1976
Where are you Sleeping?
Where are you Sleeping?
At 25 February the Accomodation Service had 230 people registered seeking shelter. Even these figures understate the situation. In many cases one person registers on behalf of a group looking for a flat. The above figure doesn't include the large number of overseas students who arrive throughout March. Of course, Mr Muldoon could have them charged with being of no fixed abode and deport them, but they really don't look at all like Polynesians.......
Average rents are up but not the standard of accomodation generally being offered. Consequently, those at the beginning of the varsity year seeking accomodation don't have much choice. There has emerged a definite trend now that Students are looking for flats at the end of the varsity year and consequently have more to choose from.
The accomodation crisis emerged yet again into the fading sunlight of a pseudo-Wellington summer. It had been sheltering from the cold but yawned briefly and sprang forth when someone remembered he'd need a place to sleep in for 1976 apart from the academic glasshouse called Rankine Brown.
Attempted humour aside, it is true that places in flats are extremely scarce for students and the general public alike who want a roof over their stereo.
Hostels are all full except for a number of vacancies at Weir House. Earlier in February a large number of Weir vacancies was causing an embarrassment to the University because of a new student flat complex (Trinity-Newman - see later) proposed soon to come before the University's Accomodation Committee. (This "embarrassment" seemed to assume the hostel accomodation was acceptable to all students, whether or not they like hostels and/or had the financial resources to enable to live in one).).
The effects of the accomodation shortage on homeless students is a little depressing. It is an unsettling feeling which usually affects their studies. As a homeless student at present I can tell you it feels like being adrift in a dinghy on Wellington Harbour on Wahine Day!
Is the University Playing Musical Houses?
It now seems clear that there are a large number of houses within the Kelburn area which could potentially be used to house a substantial number of students. At present these houses are either being used for purposes other than residential or are being let to the general public.
At least 60 houses within the Kelburn area are at present being used by the University, mainly for teaching purposes, which have priority over other types of use since the building program is way behind schedule. They are owned by the Crown but are designated for use by the University and as such could provide a blessed relief for students wanting accomodation.
However, not all of these houses can be used for student flats. Houses on Kelburn Parade will definitely make way for Von Zedlitz's playmates. As the completed building program makes new space for departments occupying houses, elsewhere, conversion to flats for student occupation could take place. When is anyone's guess, and even Dr Culliford declined to guess for me.
The Public Trust Affair
About 30 houses in the Kelburn area are being administered by the Public Trust and are leased to the general public. Some houses have ridiculously low rents but it seems that as long as the Public Trust obtains an income from each which satisfies the Education Department then they don't need to raise the rent. The crunch lies in the fact that these houses should have been given to the Studass ages ago but for various reasons this hasn't been done. Mainly because the Studass isn't capable at present of administering a reasonable number of flats. But it can be, and would even like to.
Another sticky problem is that if a transfer is to be effected, whereby the Studass takes over the flats from the Public Trust, then the decision will have to be a political one. And as some of us know, politicians don't like making decisions which may smell "discriminatory ". The issue would probably be this: should one section of the community (namely students)have preference over the rest of the public, assuming both groups have a similar right to accomodation?
If the Government wants a university in Wgtn and for the purposes of this argument we will assume they do, then surely it is in their interests to assist in seeing that students have enough accomodation. The practicalities of booting nonstudents out of the flats would have to be carefully considered. That relates to the above point covering basic human rights which belong to all of us. It would need thoughtful consideration and discussion.
Studass is prepared to become a landlord and assuming they investigate thoroughly what is needed to administer a large number of flats and act accordingly then theoretically the idea could work. The University and Government should seriously consider Studass as an alternative landlord of properties presently administered by the Public Trust.
Present Studass flats
Studass administers 5 flats in total, catering for approximately 34 people. Four are owned by the Ministry of Works, leased to Studass and sublet to students. These are in Kensington St 2), McDonald Crescent and Glenbervie Terrace. The other flat is owned by Presbyterian Church and is an ex-hostel, situated on The Terrace. This flat plus the one in Kensington St were secured by Studass only last year.
SRC policy is that priority be given to students if vacancies arise. An Exec, decision late last year stated that people in the flats have the right to decide who goes into their flat - this recognises the practicalities of the flatting situation.
Attempt to Join Landlord's Assn.
Studass tried to join the Landlord's Assn. last year. This if successful, would have enabled Studass to take flats off landlords, guaranteeing the place against damage etc and sublet them to students. However, they had no reply concerning their application. A wax impression of the letter may be seen, at your convenience in Madame Tussaud's in London alongside Jack the Ripper etc.
Building of Student flats
At the moment it's pie in the sky ideas. We haven't enough money in the trust account at present to even think about it, let alone begin preparation. A substantial amount of the money from the trust account was paid out last year in purchasing the bookshop on Mount Street; once this is recouped (this process will be speeded up by students supporting their bookshop!), then thinking about student flats will be considered, that is if by then those propie still around haven't forgotten the idea.
Trinity Flats Scheme
The situation is not completely hopeless. Some encouragement can be taken from the proposed Student flat complex to be built on Clermont Tee. Anthony Ward, the student rep on the Accomodation Committee, outlined briefly for me the history behind the proposal and some recent developments.
Originally, it was planned that two new Halls of Residence should be built, one by the Anglican Church called Newman (in the area where the Sociology Department now lives in Clermont Terrace); and the other by the Catholic Church (Trinity - in the Graveyard next to the Union building). With the costs of Halls rising rapidly, the two organisations decided to pool their resources and concentrate on the Clermont Terrace site. Architets' drawings for a new Hall were commissioned.
In the meantime, attitudes towards Halts changed. The new Helen Lowry Hostel in Karori found itself in severe financial problems with large debts to service. The Presbyterian Trust, in planning Everton Hall, decided in favour of a flatting complex, which has since been built. The Trinity/Newman complex was still intended to go ahead, when the finance could be found. However, in view of the financial difficulties many Halls were going through, and the heavy costs of new Halls compared with flats, the University Grants Committee (which controls the money for new accomodation) decided in favour of flats.
This decision, and the opposition of people involved with accomodation, including the Victoria Students' Association, eventually changed the Trinity/Newman mind in the middle of 1975. At that stage flats were decided upon, and architects drawings were called for. After a bit of discussion over the form the flats should take, basic design was nutted out. This involves about 130 students in 30 flats of four and five.
The flatting complex design is at present being costed, to be presented for the University's Accomodation Committee before going to the University Grants Committee. Anthony was confident this proposal would get the nod and thought building would start as soon as the Sociology Department was moved to VON Zedlitz, their new home. The first students should move in for the 1978 year.
It is difficult to see there being enough suitable accomodation for students being available in the next couple of years. The potentiality of the university houses seems to be years away and meanwhile price and rents continue to rise. The only encouraging thing is the Trinity/Newman scheme, but one suspects it will only provide a brief respite.
What Students Can Do to Help
The Accomodation Officer has a lack of time in his lap, and consequently cannot spend it trying to find accomodation for people. He can only advise people in how to look. He does ask people to keep an eye out for vacant houses around the 'hui', since they may be owned by the Crown or University (virtually the same thing in this case) and could possibly be used. Students could contact Exec, members at Studass office, especially the Accomodation Officer, who could take the matter from there.
by Leigh Thomson