Housing

Giving up on Groningen

Housing crises drives students away

International students are giving up on Groningen because of the housing problem. Ukrant issued an online poll that indicates 77 percent of homeless respondents are seriously considering other options.
By Megan Embry

The UKrant circulated a form on 11 Facebook housing pages and two groups of Internetforum Reddit, to identify still-homeless incoming students. In three days, 227 students have replied. Their responses offer a glimpse into the gravity of the housing situation in Groningen.

A handful of respondents are already in town, staying in hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs while they look for a room. But most – over 85 percent – still have neither short-term nor permanent accommodation lined up. Many say they might not come to Groningen at all. But the university says they still have options.

‘I wish I had known’

40 percent of online respondents say housing problems will definitely affect their decision to come to Groningen. Another 37 percent say they will consider going somewhere else if they can’t find a room.

Several respondents feel the university did not fully communicate the scope of the housing problem. At least, not in time. ‘I wish the university had told me to book a room or a studio four months before I arrive. They told us to look in advance but not that it is impossible to find anything even two months early’, writes one respondent.

I’m really scared I will have to come back to Italy.

‘It’s an insane situation’, agrees prospective student Mart Cherubini from Italy. ‘I thought starting to search two and a half months early would be enough. I’m really scared I will have to come back to Italy.’

Other students wonder why the universities don’t just provide housing for international students. But the rules are different here, RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker explains. ‘In the Netherlands, universities are not allowed to spend education money on housing. It’s the law. So we have to find other ways to fix the problem, including finding private money.’

Sugar factory update

One of those fixes – the container apartments at the Suikerfabriek – is still under construction. 90 of the 249 units have already been rented out. Rooms are rented within seconds of being uploaded to the website.

Students are frustrated by poor communication about the container units. Why are the units posted at random times? Why weren’t students told which days units would be posted? Students had to learn the hard way that rooms only go up Monday through Thursday. ‘Needless to say, it felt like a complete waste to find that out on a Friday night around 9 pm when I had already spent the whole day inside auto-refreshing the website’, says prospective student Daphne Van der Eycken.

I spent the whole day inside auto-refreshing the website

Another respondent, Ronja Nikula, thinks that posting only twenty rooms at a time is unfair. ‘It’s good that the university arranged the apartments in Suikerlaan. But students who want a studio need to stay near a computer for hours refreshing the page every three seconds. The landlord should collect the names of people who want a studio and then just pick randomly. This would be more fair, efficient, and less time-consuming.’

Students lucky enough to have reserved rooms at the Sugar Factory express concern because they still haven’t heard from the owner about where to live until construction is complete in October. Bakker advises them to sit tight – they should have information soon.

So, what are your other options?

According to Bakker, the university will provide homeless students with two emergency short-stay options, starting on Monday, 27 August: live on a boat or live in a tent.

Boat life

A hotel boat floats in the Eemskanaal, east of city centre, waiting to welcome homeless internationals. It has 49 cabins, each equipped for two persons, and a total capacity of 98 persons.

Boat living will cost you 41,50 euro a night. That price includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

You must book through the end of the month, that is, until 30 September or 31 October.

Tent Life

Three large tents will be placed, army-camp style, near the Sports Centre at the Zernike Campus. Each has 30 beds, with a total camp capacity of 90 students. There will be one tent for women, one tent for men, and one co-ed tent.

‘This facility is a minimal one’, says Bakker. ‘A student has a bed with a mattress and linens, and a locker. Toilets and showers are located at the Sports Centre. There is no meal facility.’

Camping out will only cost you 12,50 euro a night for the first week; the price might be lowered for longer stays. You can camp out until the end of September.

More details about these options will be in your inbox soon: ‘We will inform our students the regular way by the end of the week’, says Bakker. ‘For more information and to book a room, we will use www.athomeingroningen.com.’

Couchsurfing

Finally, student group DAG has also launched a couchsurfing initiative to give over 50 homeless students a place to crash in the initial weeks. Email them at houses4students.dag@gmail.com if you want to participate.

If you are still homeless next week when all of the emergency accommodations are spoken for, the UKrant wants to hear from you. We can’t help find you a room, but we can make sure your voice is heard. Contact us at housing@ukrant.nl.

Students speak out

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