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PRASA and Partners Address NSFAS Student Accommodation Challenges in Cape Town

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PRASA and Partners Address NSFAS Student Accommodation Challenges in Cape Town

PRASA and Partners Address NSFAS Student Accommodation Challenges in Cape Town. Securing accommodation is a persistent challenge for South African university and college students, even with financial support from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). However, a new initiative aims to ease this burden for the upcoming academic year.

PRASA Pioneering Effort

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), responsible for most passenger rail services in the nation, has joined forces with a property company to offer housing to over 3,200 students in Cape Town. Eligible NSFAS-funded students can expect to move into these units near Cape Town Station in February 2024.

NSFAS Student Accommodation Woes Unveiled

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has grappled with ongoing challenges related to student accommodation. This issue has been exacerbated during the current academic year.

Student housing presents a significant hurdle for students, with limited availability and NSFAS accommodation funding cap of R45,000, introduced earlier this year, causing further strain.

Insufficient space and subpar living conditions have made studying difficult, leading to protests, particularly after the introduction of the accommodation allowance cap.

NSFAS has reported the following progress in tackling accommodation challenges:

  • 93,424 beds registered on the accommodation platform.
  • 58,444 beds paid for on the platform.
  • 21,903 beds accredited.
  • Test pilot programs involving 4 TVET Colleges are underway, with accommodation agreements in progress.
  • Advanced pilot programs are being conducted at one institution, where students can apply for accredited accommodation via the platform.
  • Full piloting in TVET Colleges is anticipated in 2024.

PRASA Role in Addressing Accommodation Needs

PRASA has taken a significant step to assist NSFAS-funded students with accommodation for the 2024 academic year.

PRASA Ambitious Plans

Hishaam Emeram, CEO of PRASA, has revealed that the project is valued at R1.4 billion and is already 88.8% complete. The first group of students is expected to move in by February 2024, with the retail precinct scheduled for completion in November 2023. This initiative is poised to make a substantial contribution to student accommodation in Cape Town.

Emeram described the Cape Town station development, a partnership between PRASA and Eris Property Group, as a “major achievement and milestone for Prasa Intersite in securing long-term financial stability for the business.” The project entails constructing 3,200 student beds for NSFAS-eligible students at the heart of Cape Town’s transport network, thereby enhancing foot traffic and the commuter experience.

Annette Lindeque, CEO of Intersite PRASA’s asset investment company, commented:

“This mixed-use property development of the Cape Town station is one of the examples in which we are repositioning our stations as places where people can live, work and play, while creating transit hubs to enhance the passenger and customer experience.”

Impact of NSFAS Accommodation Cap

The accommodation cap introduced by NSFAS in early 2023 has negatively affected several universities and students. In January, NSFAS announced a R45,000 annual accommodation cap, a decision met with resistance.

Amid ongoing housing problems and a shortage of suitable accommodation, student organizations called for a reconsideration of the cap. The cap was implemented to manage unregulated accommodation costs, aiming to curb profiteering and price collusion among private accommodation providers, which had previously been marred by allegations of corruption.

Conclusion

Although NSFAS provides allowances for securing accommodation and other expenses, students have voiced concerns about the exorbitant and unaffordable prices.

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