The worsening housing crisis, access to jobs, and the region’s friendliness to internationals were the central issues at Monday’s municipal election debate, where candidates from eleven parties went head-to-head to gain supporters within the expatriate and foreign student communities. The event, co-hosted by Groningen’s Student Association for International Relations (SIB) and the Forum, was held entirely in English.
The debate focused largely on the needs of the non-Dutch residents of the city, especially international students. Specifically, how the parties aim to address the challenges this specific electorate faces on the job and housing markets.
About 60 people attended the event inside the Groningen Forum.
For those who couldn’t attend, an audio recording of the debate is available above.
Candidates from eleven parties took part in the debate: left-wing green party GroenLinks, the Labor party (PvdA), liberal democratic party D66, the Socialists (SP), the right-wing Liberal VVD, the Christian Democrats (CDA), the radical-right PVV, Christian party ChristenUnie, pro-animal De Partij voor de Dieren, the students’ party Student & Stad, and Stadspartij 100% voor Groningen.
Facing numerous questions on Groningen’s housing crisis, all candidates agreed on two things: that internationals deserve an affordable place to live, and that they were the only candidate who could deliver it. The position of the municipal parties on this central issue was outlined in their pre-election programs:
We want more houses to be built, and to do that within the existing environment and not in green areas. In new neighbourhoods, we would aim for at least 40% of it to be social housing. This also means when buying a house, you or your family must live there yourselves.
In Groningen, everyone should feel right at home. A nice, affordable housing structure is the basis of that. Therefore, the PvdA wants thousands of new builds. Near the “Suikerzijde”, for example. Disreputable landlords who abuse the housing shortage should be dealt with firmly.
The Groningen housing market is a disaster. Too many housing projects slow down, it’s getting too expensive to build new ones and the influence of investors is too big. D66 wants to tackle this by building exactly for the start and middle segment and protect homes from buying up.
A roof over your head is a basic need. That is not a guaranteed concept in Groningen. Rental properties are also often poorly maintained and poorly insulated. For young people, first-time home-owners and families, a home is therefore unpayable. Therefore we focus on real public housing.
At the moment, the housing shortage in Groningen is high. The VVD wants the speed in which new construction projects are being made to improve. We mainly want to focus on affordable owner-occupied and rental homes. We would also like to move away from social renting projects.
Everyone is entitled to sustainable housing. Given the current shortage, various buildings should be allocated to the elderly, young people and families but also for vulnerable people. We want housing to be as sustainable as possible while also preserving green areas.
Partij voor de Dieren
Buildings that incorporate nature should be a standard. We want less concrete, and more green. We want gardens in and next to buildings. We would also like to build developments that incorporate social housing more, as everyone has the right to a nice and affordable home.
We need more affordable housing prices in Groningen, and for integral permit processes to be done in a shorter time.
Stadspartij 100% voor Groningen
We want appropriate housing for everyone where the preservation of villages and neighbourhoods is paramount, with respect to the preservation of history.
Student & Stad
Student & Stad want more housing for students, as well as student houses to not be converted to studios anymore. We would also like better protection for tenants, as it is ridiculous that almost every tenant pays an extortionate amount for their room.
We want to build much more social housing, to allocate it to first-timers, families and the elderly. But we want to do it so that everyone can live in a green area and have their own parking space. Space for a student campus, 1 year compulsory residence for buyers. Customization per district and street for conversion permits.
Partij van de Zuinigheid
The housing market has been severely disrupted, and that is why the government must take action. We are for: buyers to occupy the houses in which they own, more social housing, less population growth (especially less foreign students) 2500 new student apartments in Zernike.
Partij voor het Noorden
The housing crisis is critical now for families, singles, the elderly and students. A home is no longer guaranteed. Additional and smart buildings within the municipality is therefore the solution.
Forum voor Democratie
Groningen will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. Therefore, we have to take a hard stance on housing. The FVD wants a housing market which serves Groningen’s inhabitants, with affordable houses for Dutch starters and families, without priority for the status holders.
BVNL puts affordable homes on the top of our priority list. BVNL will continue to realise affordable housing. In addition to social housing, we want houses for first-timers as well as middle income households. We want a stronger civil service, and to accelerate building permit times and construction projects. We also want to put disreputable landlords on a blacklist. BVNL puts affordable homes on the top of our priority list.
Internationals are a sizeable but under-served constituency in the upcoming municipal elections, with thousands of non-Dutch citizens eligible to vote. Most permanent residents of the Netherlands can legally cast a ballot, but few foreigners actually vote.