Better emergency housing
‘This year was the third in a row where international students had problems finding a place to live’, says D66 council member Carlo Schimmel during the municipal council meeting on Wednesday evening. ‘I don’t think the issue will have disappeared by next year.’
The number of international students at the RUG and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences has been increasing for years. The lack of housing in Groningen means that many of them are unable to find a room by August. At the start of this academic year, hundreds of internationals were forced to stay in tents near the Zernike campus, rent a room on the hotel boat in the Eemskanaal, or rely on the hospitality of fellow students and locals.
‘This is unacceptable, and hurts the city’s image’, says Schimmel. D66 wants the municipality, as well as the RUG and the Hanze university, to provide emergency housing for at least 750 students.
The shelter should resemble a small student room with shared amenities. In other words: not a tent. Any fees charged should not exceed the cost of the housing. ‘It would be emergency shelter, not an actual residence’, Schimmel explains. ‘It’s to help out people who can’t find a place to live through no fault of their own. We don’t need to make any money off of them.’
The other parties on the council all support the proposal. Alderman Roeland van der Schaaf said it was ‘entirely fair’. ‘Next year’s housing market probably won’t have changed much from how it is now. Predicting how many international students will be coming to Groningen is still difficult.’
The SP feels the RUG and the Hanze university ignore that particular issue too readily. ‘Shouldn’t we and the schools be doing something to curb that influx?’ SP faction chair Jimmy Dijk asked. ‘The RUG and the Hanze university keep reiterating that housing isn’t their responsibility while they blithely keep recruiting students from abroad.’
Dijk’s party tabled a motion to limit the influx of first-years as long as the housing crisis was ongoing, but the plan failed to garner sufficient support. ‘The RUG and the Hanze have no means to repel students’, says Schimmel.
The council did agree to a proposal from GroenLinks, to try and find alternatives to the short stay contracts. Students at The Student Hotel, the Suikerlaan container apartments, the Rikkers-Lubbers house and the new student housing at the Peizerweg all have short stay contracts. These contracts aren’t subject to the same laws as regular rental contracts, which means that students don’t have any rental protection and often end up paying more rent.
‘The increase in short stay contracts worries me’, says GroenLinks council member Petra Brouwers. ‘While it might be great for exchange students who only come here for a few months and actually need a furnished room, it turns out regular long-term students also rent rooms through short stay contracts.’
The city council will investigate short stay alternatives and will also determine whether the rights of tenants with short stay contracts can be improved. The municipal council will be briefed on the results of the investigation before March of 2019.