Ghent University approves new construction and renovation plans for student accommodation

(10-11-2022) Ghent University is fully committed to high-quality and affordable housing for its current and future students. To this end, new tracks are constantly being explored and alternative avenues explored.

The current context with rapidly rising construction and energy costs plays an important role in making choices.

Specifically, on Thursday 10 November 2022, the Board of Governors approved (after positive advice from the Social Council) the following adjustments to the construction and renovation plans for student housing:

  • The application for a building permit for a new student home on Corneel Heymanslaan in Ghent will be scrapped. The building permit for the new student home on Campus Sterre had previously (March 2022) been refused by Flemish Minister of Environment Zuhal Demir.
  • In addition, the university is investigating the possibility of giving some student homes on a long lease and having them renovated by a private partner. In that renovation, Ghent University wants to focus entirely on the provision of 'basic rooms'. The university will then manage these rooms itself and sublet them to students.
  • In order to maintain sufficient student rooms, the university already rents some 100 student rooms for international students in a building near Bruges railway station. A future expansion to 250 rental rooms is a possibility at that location. Additional rental options are also being explored in Kortrijk.
  • On the Ghent territory, Ghent University will rent five hundred rooms from 2024; an agreement has been concluded with a private partner for this purpose.
Rector Rik Van de Walle: "Ghent is the largest student city in the country and student housing is a serious challenge. We recently launched our ambitious future plan 'UGent Verbeeldt 2050'. That plan acts as a compass for all our building and renovation plans and makes us - again - think about adjustments that take into account the current context, such as the high need for qualitative but affordable student housing and the existing tension on the regular housing market in Ghent."

Oldest student homes to be renovated

The student homes Boudewijn (Harelbekestraat), Astrid (Krijgslaan), Vermeylen (Stalhof) and Fabiola (Stalhof) are in urgent need of renovation. This renovation will be gradual. In the current context of rapidly rising construction and energy costs, on 10 November 2022 the board of directors approved a slight adjustment of the renovation standards, as well as the track to explore the possibilities of leasehold.

Specifically, this means the following:

  • During the already planned renovation of Home Boudewijn, the area of communal facilities will be slightly adjusted. Naturally, all legal and regulatory obligations will be observed in the process. The total renovation of Home Boudewijn will start in the academic year 2024-2025.
  • For the existing renovation plans of Home Astrid and Home Vermeylen, the university wants to conclude a long lease agreement with a private partner and make the rooms available again to Ghent University students at affordable prices after renovation or reconstruction. The total renovation of Home Astrid is planned from academic year 2026-2027, that of Home Vermeylen in 2028-2029.
  • For Home Fabiola, the renovation study has not yet started, but the same starting points as for the other three homes will be taken into account. The aim is to start the total renovation in the 2026-2027 academic year.

Renting student rooms externally

Instead of starting expensive construction and renovation projects itself, Ghent University wants to realise a better supply of high-quality and affordable student rooms together with external partners. 'Affordable' specifically means standard rooms with shared facilities, such as shared sanitary facilities and kitchen.

With this, the university continues to prioritise students for whom renting a student room is a financial barrier (scholarship and near-scholarship students). A greater supply of rooms is also envisaged for international (exchange) students.

Since the rooms will be rented out at democratic prices, students who can thus occupy a room will be subsidised. With this plan, Ghent University is taking full advantage of its students and, together with external partners, wants to improve the supply of rooms in and around Ghent.

Rector Rik Van de Walle: "As a university, we continue to emphasise the great need for more affordable high-quality student accommodation. A lot of young people are currently unable to study at university because they do not have the financial means to live in rooms. Of course, the housing problem does not only apply to Ghent University but also to other higher education institutions. An ambitious Flemish student housing plan, in which the government, investors, the building sector, students and higher education institutions find each other, and together create more student housing, is therefore needed."