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Housing shortage in Netherlands underlines capacity strain

At least 150 international students in the Netherlands have called a Housing Hotline – set up by Dutch student union LSVb and the Erasmus Students Network – concerned that they had nowhere to live for the 2017/18 academic year.

Groningen is one of the main university cities in the Netherlands reporting housing shortages.Groningen is one of the main university cities in the Netherlands reporting housing shortages. Photo: Alfred Grupstra

In a parliamentary debate, it was claimed that there could be a shortage of up to 47,000 rooms

Some international students have had to resort to staying in a campsite in Utrecht or a refugee centre in Groningen that was re-opened to help ease a housing shortage that has become a big problem in some student cities.

Ceren Genc, centre manager for Study Group at the University of Groningen, confirmed to The PIE News that there had been many problems for international students in this city.

Explaining that those enrolled with Study Group were not impacted because of an agreement with The Student Hotel, Genc said she was aware of some students having to camp in the park, one Romanian student returning home and one Turkish exchange student who slept on the street for two days upon arrival.

“Ads for rooms often have the title ‘No international students!’”

As the Netherlands announces a new increase in international enrolments to 112,000 students, it is clear that the accommodation infrastructure in some cities is woefully insufficient.

And according to ESN in the Netherlands, international students are also more vulnerable to being charged more for accommodation once they do source somewhere to live.

“The housing hotline has helped us to get a good idea of the problems international students encounter,” Carlijn Verhagen, Education Officer & External Relations Manager at ESN in the Netherlands, told The PIE News.

She explained that higher education institutions expect students to arrange housing themselves, “while municipalities can’t keep up with the rising numbers of international students looking for accommodation”.

“Ads for rooms often have the title ‘No international students!’,” related Verhagen.

“Besides limiting the choices for accommodation, this is also a setback for integration into the Dutch student culture and the international students often live together with other international students.”

If students do find a room, “they often pay way more than local students for a similar accommodation”, she added.

Genc agreed that exchange students were also finding some landlords reluctant to rent rooms to them.

The situation has led to a parliamentary debate, which happened last week, explained Anne Lutgerink, spokesperson for Nuffic. During this debate, it was claimed that there could be a shortage of up to 47,000 rooms – and it was underlined that international students are more vulnerable to being scammed when seeking housing.

Lutgerink confirmed that Nuffic was pushing for a national action plan to resolve problems in the future.

“Our role is two-fold,” she explained. “Firstly, to inform students who are coming to study in the Netherlands and manage their expectations well in advance around [supply] through our Study in Holland channels and pre-departure briefings at our Neso offices.”

Lutgerink explained some students had been leaving it very late, one week prior to their course date, to organise accommodation.

“Secondly, we are discussing these matters with various parties – universities, municipalities, associations of institutions, student organisations and student housing operators – but what we would really like to see is more attention to these problems and to work together on a national action plan,” she said.

“We’re happy to see that the political parties and minister Bussemaker are calling for a more national and regional approach.”

At The Class of 2020, which describes itself as Europe’s leading platform on student housing and the internationalisation of education, Jorick Beijer, foundation manager, explained they had joined forces with Kences – a body representing Dutch public student housing providers – to engage with the national parliament on this issue.

Their joint letter calls for a new action plan on student housing, involving not just public providers but private parties and institutional investors, along with universities.

“[This point] is something that we, as The Class, consider as really important, and also made a big part of the parliamentary debate,” said Beijer. “Dutch universities keep on hiding themselves in the debate on student housing and seem to take very little responsibility.”

He added, “The good news is that the official roadmap of the new government includes a chapter on internationalisation of HEI’s. It says they will increase the attractiveness of Dutch HEI’s for foreign students. So that is definitely a step in the right direction and for us, makes a new action plan on student housing, more urgent than ever before.”

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