The city’s Historic Centre will receive a shot of new blood with the opening of a university residence, in a building owned by Port City Hall, in Bainharia Street. The management of the facilities will be shared between the City Hall, Federação Académica do Porto (FAP) and the University of Porto.
The space welcomed the representatives of the three institutions on Thursday morning, in a kind of pre-presentation of the residential structure for students, opening in the next academic year. Referring to this feature as the “pilot-project of a strategic alliance between the three institutions”, the Mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, noted that “It is very important to bring young population to this area. In fact, that is part of the strategy we had outlined”.
“This building was refurbished by SRU, as part of the Morro da Sé programmes, to replace the existing social centre. For reasons we must respect, the social centre never wanted to move here. I understand that this is a street that, in terms of accessibility, for example for ambulances and more, is not great. But, as we had a commitment regarding this matter, we had to wait these years to be able to release this building for another use. The building is almost ready to be used, it has some pathologies that only result from having been closed. Therefore, we can move forward”, stressed the mayor, congratulating the understanding reached: “It’s great that there is this innovation and entrepreneurship by FAP, naturally with the support of the City Hall and the Rectory”.
Rui Moreira also recalled that the Municipality of Porto has other ongoing projects to address the shortage of student accommodation, namely the development, with the University, of a residence for students in Monte Pedral. “The front barracks building will be duplicated, and this will be done with the University of Porto”, he indicated.
In total, joint applications for the Recovery and Resilience Plan are being studied between the City Council and the University of Porto, which will enable the mobilisation of community funds for the joint construction of two more residences in the city: in Morro da Sé (Historic Centre), where a construction area of 6750 square meters is foreseen and an investment of around 7 million euros is estimated; and in Monte Pedral (Constituição), where the construction area will be around 5000 square meters and the investment between 6 and 6,5 million euros.
“The problem of student accommodation is chronic, and that is exactly why the academy of Porto, and the City Hall are joining forces to provide this new service. It is one more response to the problem of student accommodation, already in the next academic year”, said the president of the Federação Académica do Porto, Ana Gabriela Cabilhas, adding : “We hope that this networking of the City Hall, of a student structure as FAP, and of College education institutions can give an additional response. The implementation of the Plano Nacional para o Alojamento no Ensino Superior has fallen short of the expectations and these initiatives will complement that strategy”.
The student leader detailed that 20 rooms are planned for the building on Bainharia Street. “The number of beds will be defined later. Regarding the applications, this accommodation will have a range of beneficiaries, the several students of the academy of Porto, regardless of the education subsystem to which they are assigned. The selection process will always be based on criteria, namely, socioeconomic need”, she added.
“The management model is still being worked on, but the basic premise will always be accommodation at affordable and controlled prices, that students can afford. It will be the first time that we have an accommodation service provided by a student structure, so the innovation involved this responsibility”, concludes Ana Gabriela Cabilhas thanking the autarchy for the “timely concession” of the space.
The rector of the University of Porto, António Sousa Pereira, pointed out that this pilot project will allow to “experiment a new governance model for the residences that may be extremely interesting for the future and will naturally be evaluated by us, by the City Hall, by the students. If it is successful it may eventually be extended to larger university residences. Our expectation is that this will happen, and it will be possible to provide a good service to everyone”.
“We have close to 6000 beds built in recent years in the city, in private university residences, but there remains a lack of structured response for middle-class and lower-class students. It is to meet the needs of these students that this plan was designed, which includes residences to be built by the University – we are talking about around 400 /450 additional beds – residences to be built in consortium with Porto City Hall – which will be around 300 more beds -and this pilot project”, he explained.
On the sidelines of the visit to the future university residence in Bainharia Street, the committee – which included the team of councillors from Porto City Hall and the governing bodies of the municipal company Porto Vivo, SRU – got to know the progress of the refurbishment works on a building next door, in Sant’ana Street, for accessible renting.
“We have been making a great effort, here in the Historic centre, to make houses available to the population. In this building 14 apartments will be built”, pointed out Rui Moreira, adding: “There is much more demand than supply. We are offering houses below market price, and with much better quality – there will be 2-bedroom apartments for around 500 euros, with an elevator, all the accessibilities and everything else. People, even those who already have a house, prefer SRU houses because they are better and affordable.”
The work will continue to respond to the most urgent situations, concluded the Mayor of Porto: “We don’t have a magic wand. We won’t be able to solve everyone’s problem, we will be working on it. This is an ongoing process, and we have a lot of refurbishments to do”.