We are all aware of the fact that university fees are very high in South Africa, and that many varsity students – especially those who are not from Johannesburg – cannot afford accommodation while studying. From undergraduates living in homeless shelters to postgraduates working two jobs to keep a roof over their heads, finding a decent place to stay without breaking the bank is as important to the success of a degree as overpriced textbooks and attending lectures are. According to the City of Johannesburg, some 20% of Johannesburg residents live in abject poverty, and a big number of those are made up of varsity students.
This article is not about scholars without roofs over their heads but a rough guide to student accommodation in and around town. Joburg is a vibrant city with a rich and exciting nightlife, thanks to the two universities, UJ and WITS. A lot of businesses, such as the restaurants and coffee shops of Braamfontein and Melville, to name a few, rely on student occupancy. Because of such a high influx of students, which increases each year, accommodation is always in demand. After a quick search-engine investigation, one quickly notices that finding a place to stay is more daunting than one would expect. Reality is a bitter pill and a list of things should be taken into consideration, such as the distance needed to travel to and from varsity, general safety and the de facto tie breaker: price.
A student at UJ’s first choice would be one of the many residences situated around their Bunting Road, Doornfontein and Soweto Campuses. Monthly levies at these dormitories range from R1 000 to R5 000 per room which, in itself, is a staggering amount of money. Because on-campus accommodation prices are through the roof, many students turn to the private rental market. Rooms can be found on OLX from as little as R500 per month – the only problem is that many of these are shared rooms, leaving very little room for privacy and, in most cases, the cheaper the rent, the dodgier the area. One such example would be apartments and hostels situated in and around Brixton’s shopping district. Here, personal advertisements for student accommodation are taped to every other street lamp and electrical box. A more palatable option would be for students to look towards Westdene and Melville for a place to stay as the crime rate is lower, but the prices are higher. Everything from shared apartments above real estate agencies to beautiful garden cottages close to the dam can be found here and prices range from R1 350 to R4 600.
Those studying at WITS have it somewhat easier as rental properties within the city are cheaper, more spacious and, believe it or not, a lot safer. South Point, located on De Korte Street in Braamfontein, offers comfortable living within walking distance from WITS’ main campus. The only problem with this is, of course, that it’s fairly expensive. Alternatively, students have been known to live in communes in Hillbrow and surrounding areas ,which often works out very well. A two-bedroom flat can cost as little as R1 350 per month, and a top floor loft can be rented at around
R5 000, split between four people.
With the City of Johannesburg’s 20-year plan to link all neighbouring towns such as Roodepoort, Randburg and Sandton to the city with dedicated cycle lanes, student accommodation will become more accessible and readily available. But, until then, we’ll have to make use of the resources available such as contacting letting agents, scrounging around the web and searching through classifieds.
By Shawn Greyling
Are you a student? Where do you currently stay? Tell us in the comments section below.