Room shortage in the Netherlands: Students want a place to stay

After a 46 percent increase in the number of students in the last decade, the Netherlands now has one of the highest concentrations of students in Europe. This puts pressure on the housing situation, which has sparked students protest in Utrecht

60 students brought sleeping bags and signs at a protest at Utrecht University on 13 October. “It might look like a joke (with the sleeping bags) but for some it is a reality,” says Laurien Meijer, one of the organisers.

 

“I think frustration is the correct word because we feel it is such a bad situation right now.”

The words come from Laurien Meijer, a 24-year-old Dutch student, who comes from Nijmegen and is studying for a Research Master in Child Development at Utrecht University (UU).

She is one of the organisers of a student movement in Utrecht called ‘We Want Woonruimte’ (we want a place to stay), which made a protest at UU on the 13 October with the participation of around 60 students.

The movement is trying to put more focus on the housing situation in the city, which – like in the rest of the Netherlands – has the problem of too many students for too few rooms.

Meijer has heard from many international students, who have stayed in hostels or slept on the couch of a friend this fall semester. Some have even quit their studies and went back because they just couldn’t find a room.

The Dutch students are also affected because the prices at private landlords are very high at the moment – in some cases, students pay €400 for six m2. This means that some Dutch students have to travel far or maybe they can’t go to the study they want, Meijer says.

“So, it is a problem for everyone really,” she says, who herself lives in Bunnik, a small village outside of Utrecht.

High increase of students
According to spokesperson Matthijs Keuning from the Municipality of Utrecht, the latest statistics from the Housing and Planning department states that there are currently 65,500 students in the city and at the moment the estimated shortage in rooms is 5,100.

The situation has escalated partly because the city’s two major educational institutions, UU and Hogeschool Utrecht (HU), has had an increase in the number of international students. This year alone by 3,400.

On the national level, the situation is the same with a 164 percent increase in the number of international students in the last decade, according to the European Student Housing Report 2017 made by the real estate service company JLL.

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the total increase of students in the country (both internationals and Dutch) has also increased in the same period.

The report states, that today 46 percent more students study in the Netherlands than ten years ago, and this means that the Netherlands now has one of the highest concentrations of students in Europe, with 41.3 per 1,000 people.

“Every year more students come here and the housing crisis gets bigger and bigger and that’s why we think it has to change now. Enough is enough,” Meijer says.

A solution is on the way
It’s up to the municipalities in the Netherlands to come up with a solution to the housing problem.

In Utrecht, the Municipality of Utrecht is currently planning to build 4,000 more rooms between now and 2021 and expects that there’ll no shortage anymore by that time, according to spokesperson Keuning.

The municipality has also invited We Want Woonruimte and UU for a meeting to talk about possible solutions to the current problem with students who can’t find a place to stay.

Meijer is looking forward to the meeting and suggests that a part of the solution could be more control on the rent prices of private landlords. However, she is not sure whether the municipality’s plan to build more housing will be enough.

“It’s not a sufficient solution because there are more students coming in than they can build housing for at this rate,” she says.

The number of students at UU has increased by 268 since 2013. However, the university is interested in the quality of students and education and not so much the quantity, spokesperson Maarten Post informs in an email to Euroscope Magazine.

Although UU isn’t a housing corporation it finds it very important that students (both Dutch and international) can find proper accommodation. And UU has faith that the municipality’s plan to build more housing will solve the issue.

“Together with our partners (municipality, student housing cooperation, etc.) we are trying to find structural solutions,” the spokesperson writes.

Besides housing, the protesters also want affordable housing. More control on the rent prices of private landlords could be a solution to this, they hope.

 

Facts:

Students in the Netherlands:
In total 700,226 studies in the Netherlands in 2017. 13 percent (91,388) are international students. 284,724 of the Dutch students, who study in the Netherlands, currently live at their parent’s place.

Source: The European Housing Report 2017 by real estate service company ‘JLL’

Students in Utrecht:
Of the 65,500 students in Utrecht, 60,200 are fulltime. Of this 60,200, 23,900 still live with their parents. From the other 36,300, 24,600 live in Utrecht. Besides, 6,200 students live in the city and study in another city. 31,783 of the students study at UU.

About half of the international students at UU and about 800 international students at HU have to arrange their own housing. There’s also an increase in the shortage in housing for this group.

Sources: Municipality of Utrecht and UU

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