Wed, Feb 08, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Group highlights housing issues

OPPORTUNITIES:The Tsuei Ma Ma Foundation says the nation’s dwindling birthrate and sinking economy could empower college students looking to rent housing units

By Hsieh Wen-hua  /  Staff Reporter

Amid a tough market for landlords as the economy flags, one group is highlighting the opportunities and challenges for university students in their hunt for affordable yet decent accomodation.

With a worsening economy threatening to increase unemployment as well as the possibility of a new round of unpaid leave for workers, rental income for landlords could in turn be affected, the Tsuei Ma Ma Foundation for Housing and Community Services said.

The nation’s dwindling birthrate is already a main factor in the increased vacancy rates and now with dropping incomes, landlords are fearful that a rise in rent could further undermine the market, the foundation said, adding that this empowers tenants when they negotiate their rent.

Universities will draw lots from next month to June to allocate dormitory rooms for students. About 30 percent of university students, and 90 percent of sophomores-to-be, rent off-campus, the foundation’s rental services director Feng Li-fang (馮麗芳) said on Sunday, and those students should be aware of what they are getting into as they look for a place to live.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that more than 250,000 students from 137 universities resided off campus in 1998, a number that peaked at 320,000 students from 163 universities in 2008. That number has since decreased annually and fell to fewer than 300,000 last year.

Based on the observations of several landlords in recent years, properties near universities could five years ago be easily rented to students within two weeks, while the period has now lengthened to one or even two months, Feng said.

If landlords miss the peak time when students move, their properties could be vacant for an entire semester, Feng said.

No significant rise in rent is expected this year, Soochow University Student Housing Division director Tseng Kuo-chiang (曾國強) said, adding that rent for a room near the school ranged from NT$4,500 to NT$5,500 per month and about NT$7,500 for a suite.

A survey conducted by the foundation shows that the monthly rent in most areas around Taipei started from NT$4,500 for a room and NT$10,000 for a suite.

As for universities in central Taiwan, such as Feng Chia University, Tunghai University and Providence University, the minimum monthly rent for rooms and suites located near the universities was NT$3,000 and NT$7,000 respectively. In the south, the monthly rent for a suite is NT$5,000, while rent is even lower in eastern parts of the country.

Dorms with reasonable rent built by Shih Hsin University in Taipei, in collaboration with property rental administration companies, have reportedly received good reviews from university students. Those provide about 200 beds and secured access control, with monthly rent ranging from NT$3,000 to NT$5,000, and without any price increases for three years.

A build-operate-transfer project at National Taiwan University, which is operated by Prince Housing and Development Corp, also provides affordable rooms for university students, with rent about 10 percent lower than in the Gongguan area (公館) around the university.

To improve security for students who reside off-campus, the ministry has demanded that universities conduct residence evaluations on landlords that lease seven to nine beds, from a standard of 10 beds last year, including evaluation over access control, security for the use of gas and electricity, and fire exits, Tseng said.

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