The universities in Groningen have signed a covenant with other local groups involved in student housing to try and improve the housing situation, including reducing resistance among Dutch tenants to take in international housemates.
Translation by Traci White
“Unfortunately, it’s common to see ‘Dutch Only’ or ‘No Internationals’ at the top of room vacancy listings”, Erasmus Student Network (ESN) president Tjitske Schokker told Dagblad van het Noorden. One of the main points of the covenant is ensuring that at least 1,500 additional rooms are added to the market by 2025.
ESN, The Groningen Student Union (Groninger Studentenbond, GSb), the University of Groningen, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the municipality and several housing corporations in the city, including SSH signed a covenant on Tuesday afternoon to improve student housing in the city. “The covenant includes an agreement by the relevant student associations to start a campaign to make people more aware of biases against international housemates”, Schokker says.
“Sustainable, affordable and proper accommodation”
The Groningen Student and Young People Housing Covenant 2019-2022 “lays down the contributions that each party must make to achieve sustainable, affordable and proper accommodation for Dutch and international students and young people in general in the city of Groningen”, according to a press release from the University of Groningen.
The covenant’s goal is to develop a clear plan for which party is responsible for what when it comes to housing, including short-term and long-term leases. The city was hundreds of rooms short of being able to accommodate all of the new incoming students, particularly foreign students, but the academic institutions are not legally obligated to provide housing.
The housing market in general is very competitive in Groningen, but internationals have an especially challenging time finding housing due to their lack of familiarity with the rules and the language. That issue is exacerbated by apparent tolerance for room listings to explicitly say that foreign tenants need not apply.
Quantity and quality
“This covenant is not just about quantity, but also about quality”, says GSb president Jolien Bruinewoud. “Not only do more rooms need to be built, but the quality of the available rooms has to be better.” The housing shortage will be an issue in the coming academic year as well: a motion by D66 to build emergency housing for 750 international students next year was accepted back in October.
Further development of the covenant was one of the measures the University of Groningen offered in response to members of DAG and foreign students occupying the Academy Building earlier in the summer to protest the housing shortage. The covenant was also an important component of a hearing on the housing situation in the city last month.
Another recent development which should improve the rental market for all residents was the national adoption of the PvdA and CDA’s motion to revoke permits from landlords. Many properties in Groningen are owned by a handful of landlord, and Sikkom reports that the recently developed Groningen plan would make it possible to take away permits for specific properties if there are complaints about the landlord.