Jasper Been, the leader of the DAG student faction in the University of Groningen’s university council, is concerned that housing only international students at the Suikerunie may end up leaving them feeling isolated.
Been told OOGTV on Monday that while he thinks it’s “fantastic that strides are being made to fix the housing problems”, he and his fellow student faction members fear that housing exclusively international students in containers at the former sugar beet processing factory will make it harder for the students to connect to the city.
Plans to create 249 temporary housing units by October at the terrain, which is home to the former sugar beet factory and music venue EM2, were announced last week. “The students will all be put together in one place, whereas Dutch students are spread out across the city where they have more access to activities and events.” Been also expressed concerns about the fact that the students would be paying 500 euros for units that were 18 meters squared.
An imbalance between supply and demand on the rental market has been widening in recent years: student numbers, especially among internationals, are growing, but the number of new construction projects has not kept pace with the growing student population. The issue is particularly challenging for foreign students who do not have a network of acquaintances to help them find a place to stay. Another issue that compounds the situation is that virtually no international students are members of student associations: altogether, the dozens of student associations in the city have hundreds of properties across Groningen that are occupied as a rule by members only.
Those factors combined led to hundreds of students left searching for a place to live at the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic year. The municipality and the universities are taking pains to prevent the same issue from playing out this autumn: the municipality launched a new housing database on the At home in Groningen site in July, which lists properties available for rent in the coming months – the first 61 properties were reserved within a couple of days after launching.
Tents and couchsurfing
Nearly 230 temporary camp sites will be made available for new students at the beginning of the school year as well, including spots on the Oosterstraat – Club Bedroom/Mazzo/C’Est Ca – the Eemskanaal, the ACLO sporting facilities at Zernike and the former addiction treatment center for the Northern Netherlands on the Vondellaan.
In June, DAG (Democratische Academie Groningen) announced that they would create a volunteer database for couchsurfing locations in the city for incoming students to sleep while searching for long term housing. There are long term plans to add at least 1,500 rooms to the housing rental market by 2020.
Photo source: OOGTV