The Village: Everything you need in one place
The pale fall sun reflects off the stacks of black containers at the Peizerweg 132, where construction workers are bustling about and a large crane is busy stacking the containers.
Project developer Dirk-Jan Bax watches the goings-on with undisguised enthusiasm. Before long, this building site will be transformed into The Village: a kind of village-within-the-city, just for internationals.
The new complex was dreamed up by Bax and Bert Kromme, who owns the plot of land and the gym currently on it. Bax says their vision for The Village is more than just housing. ‘We want to provide a home for international students. International students can start to feel lonely in a new city. We want to put them together with other international students.’
The Village will be managed by Huis van Verhuur, a property manager operating in Groningen and Zwolle. Vera Snoek, branch manager in Groningen, agrees with Bax. ‘Apparently many international students in the Netherlands get lonely, because the Dutch students keep to themselves.’
The Village will have 216 fully furnished, twelve square metre rooms. Residents will share bathrooms, toilets, and kitchens. Bax: ‘It might sound small, but we’re making every effort to offer the students extras to try and get them to leave their rooms and socialise with others.’
Bax wants The Village to be ‘the total package’. In addition to the gym already in place, it will feature a restaurant, a basketball court, study rooms, and TV and gaming rooms. ‘The only reason students would have to leave is to go to class.’
The containers are listed on the At Home in Groningen website. One unit has already been booked. Bax: ‘We have interested internationals visiting the site every day.’
The containers at The Village will be rented through short-stay contracts, in spite of the growing criticism of these contracts. Students renting short-stay don’t enjoy any rental protection and often pay more for their rooms than regular tenants. But Huis van Verhuur says it’s the only option.
‘This housing project has been built in an industrial area, and permanent residence at the site is forbidden’, says Vera Snoek. ‘The city has issued a five year permit.’ Students are only allowed to live in the containers for a period of one year. ‘We want to have another discussion with the city about this. But as it stands now, that’s the longest possible period.’
A room at The Village costs 465 euros a month. That’s quite a bit more than the amount alderman Roeland van der Schaaf mentioned during a municipal hearing in October: back then, the rent was said to be 250 euros.
‘But these units, with what we’re building around them, can’t be constructed at a cheaper price’, explains Bax. He says it’s partly because the zoning plan won’t allow regular housing.
‘These are basically hotel rooms, which means we’re paying VAT. We have to charge our residents for that or we lose money.’ Gas, electricity, and internet are all included in the rent. ‘And the residents can get free coffee and tea in the common room.’
The first container unit is scheduled to be finished halfway through November, and the complex will open its doors in January.