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Rome, a luxury student residence granted by public money

27 November, Il Fatto Quotidiano

The opening of a modern student house featuring co-working and co-living spaces is always good news. But when the price of a room reaches 800 euro per month, the news is good only for a few. Especially if the project is developed in an over-populated neighbourhood, where there’s a lack of public services and social housing is a mirage. This is what is going to happen in Rome, in San Lorenzo, a neighbourhood just beside the biggest university in Europe, with the arrival of the Dutch group The Student Hotel (Tsh). The group was born from the idea of the Scottish entrepreneur Charlie MacGregor and the model is getting very popular all over Europe. After the Netherlands, Spain and France, now it’s the turn of Italy, with two hotels in Florence and one in Bologna planned for 2018.

In Rome, it will raise on 23 thousand Sq m surface once the property of the Customs House of San Lorenzo. The Rome project, for a total investment of 90 million euro, sees the restructuring of the historical building and the demolition and reconstruction of another building. An eight-storey building, common areas for studying, a restaurant, a bar, a game room, and a roof-top swimming pool. A sort of hostel with all the mods and cons that will be able to host up to 900 people, between students, professionals and tourists.

Residenziale Immobiliare 2004 Spa is the owner of the former Customs House, the company was created for the sole purpose of “promoting” a good part of the significant public portfolio of Rome, nowadays participated by 75% by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Immobiliare (100% owned by Cdp) and by 25% by the group Fingen. But it will be Residenziale Immobiliare to take care of the reorganization and the approvals, as confirmed by Cdp. Only after these operations will be concluded, The Student Hotel will definitively buy the space and start constructing.

A convenient investment for the Dutch group. “If the expenses for Cassa Depositi e Prestiti are the reorganization and the permits, 90 million seems too little”, comments Palo Berdini, ex-City Councillor for urban planning for the City of Rome. He adds: “If this is the budget, I’d like to know what do they mean by reorganization”, comments the architect Antonello Sotgia, author of “Rome, at the conquest of West. From furnace to finance”. Cdp, the property funds and the asset management companies are tracing the features of the city with the consent of the institutions.

The State sold the former Customs House in 2002 to Fintecnica, 100% controlled since 2012 by Cdp, together with two other strategic assets, the former Zecca (the State Institute for printing and minting) and the former National Geological Institute, which will become the Pentagramma project. The objective was to earn something from the public assets. In 2007, Fintecnica Immobiliare, which will become Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Immobiliare, 100% controlled by Cassa, put on sale the properties. In this way, a company was instituted, half controlled by Cassa and half controlled by private investors, namely Residenziale Immobiliare 2004. The operation was valued 368 million euro. The interests of the company went to Fingen, Pirelli Re and Gruppo Maire, which will leave the company later.

An investigation of the then-Senator Francesco Storace makes questioning about the real value of the properties, considering that the Zecca building was valued only 540 million. In any case, the three companies paid to Fintecnica 184 million euro, and Fintecnica should have paid the same: an investment at zero cost, with basically always the same owner to follow step by step the regeneration process of the area. In the 2011 report, Residenziale Immobiliare 2004 accumulated debts for 315 million: “Through private and public funds, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti has transformed a public asset into a private source of income”, declares Berdini. And in 2017 the promotion plan assumed the shape of a luxury hostel in a popular student area.

In the meantime, the student committees promise to fight: “The right to study is under attack and The Student House is another insult to students’ dignity”. “I had to rent a room for 370 euro despite being entitled to a place in a student house”, says Emiliano, at his first year of Psychology. The student, despite being qualified for the welfare services, cannot access to them because there aren’t enough spaces. According to the figures of Coordinamento Universitario Link, the students qualified for a place in a student residence have increased by 32% in Lazio, but on a total of 3,082 entitled students, those awarded with a place in a resentence are only 1,937. According to the numbers of Laziodisu, the beds in Rome are 2,040 (2,515 in the whole region). In Lazio, for the 2017-2018 academic year, the students qualifying for a student residence have increased by 24%. Moreover, rents have increased by 4%, for an average of 416 euro per month for a single room and 302 euro per a shared room. These prices double if we look at the Capital.

Federica, a qualified winner of a place, preferred rather renting a room – 275 euro for a shared room – because the residence assigned to her was too far from the centre. In the residence of Valleranello, in the south-eastern suburbs of Rome, on a total of 400 beds, only 35 are accessible. Half of the cooking plates are not functioning, and the common spaces are abandoned. Wi-fi doesn’t cover the whole area and the place is infested by bugs. It takes over one hour for the students residing in Ponte Nona, eastern suburbs, to reach the university in the city centre. A real challenge that students repeat every day, commuting in the streets of Rome.

Source: Il Fatto Quotidiano

Translator: Cristina Ambrosi

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