According to RTV NOORD, the University of Groningen recently contacted staff asking whether they are prepared to “voluntarily and temporarily” house international students.
“We received dozens of questions about accommodation in past few months”
In the email seen by the media outlet, the university wrote: “Despite all efforts, we expect that a number of students will not be able to find accommodation in the coming weeks.
“As an employee of the RUG, you can help. Do you have a room or other living room or bed available? Or would you like to offer temporary accommodation to a student from abroad? Then sign up voluntarily.”
The mail added that “an expense allowance may be requested, but no rent”.
Dutch institutions are continuing to attract overseas students thanks to high rankings, a growing number of English-language programs and job market opportunities.
However, insufficient accommodation remains a stumbling block, with a report published earlier in 2018 revealing an estimated 124,087 new rooms are needed to meet growing demand.
Ana Schröder, communications manager at Erasmus Student Network-The Netherlands told The PIE News it has been contacted “several times a day” by international students who could not find housing in the country.
“We received dozens of questions about accommodation in [the] past few months. One of the biggest problems is that a lot of the apartments only want female or/and Dutch students. Sometimes this request comes from the landlord whereas otherwise, the students already living in the shared apartment do not want to include international students,” she revealed.
Additionally, Schröder told The PIE it is common in the Netherlands to have ‘hospiteer’ evenings, where up to 15 people are invited to visit a room and the landlord can get to know the candidates.
“For international students, it’s very hard as often they are the only non-Dutch speaking candidates,” she added.
Meanwhile growing demand for housing has caused rental prices for student rooms in the country to swell.
According to Dutch housing website Kamernet, in 2017 students paid an average rent of €385 per month for a room, but in the first half of 2018, it had risen to €403 – up 5%.
Kamernet revealed that with an average rent of €571 per month (up 4.92%), Amsterdam remains the most expensive city for a student to live in the Netherlands.
In Utrecht, the cost has increased by 5.7%, while in Eindhoven the average rent increased by 5.2%.
Kamernet also reported growth in the visitors to the website and app from abroad. In the first seven months of 2018, a statement from Kamernet read, “the number of international visitors had increased by half”.
“The search for a room is sometimes difficult for both Dutch and international students because you really have to compete with all the other people who go to rooms, look for a bigger room or switch between study and city,” the statement continued.
This is not the first time that the insufficient accommodation infrastructure in some Dutch cities has been brought to the fore; in 2017, some international students had to resort to staying in a campsite in Utrecht and refugee centre in Groningen.
In response to the current Groningen crisis, RUG student political party the Democratic Academy Groningen has organised protests, debates and a ‘help a fellow student out’ initiative in a bid highlight that some international students are “still sleeping in tents, expensive hotel boats or hostels, or on someone’s couch”.
“The city simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate all (international) students“
Posting on social media, the group wrote: “In recent weeks it has become painfully clear that the city of Groningen has succumbed to chaos as a result of the severe housing crisis, with the international students being especially affected.”
“What should have been a pleasant start of the academic year for all… resulted for a lot of students in a stressful situation. The city simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate all (international) students.”
“It is time to show the university that action is needed. All students deserve a warm welcome in Groningen and shouldn’t be treated as walking money bags,” the post concluded.