In order to ensure that foreign students have a place to lay their head in the first weeks of classes, the Esdoornflat and The Village in the city of Groningen will be providing relief housing for incoming internationals in the autumn.
According to the municipality, 120 furnished rooms will be available at the Esdoornflat (on the Esdoornlaan near the Zernike campus) and 80 beds will be located at The Village, a short stay housing complex on the Peizerweg with an on-site restaurant and gym. If the two facilities fill up, the city will once again make the Metaallaan school house available to students.
Prognoses provided by the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences indicate there will be around 225 students who will need to at least temporarily stay in the relief housing.
Getting an exact headcount is tricky for all Dutch universities: EU students do not have to finalise their enrolment until either 31 August or 1 September, which means that the universities do not actually know exactly how many students will ultimately be showing up in their classrooms until courses start. Universities typically only provide their definitive enrolment numbers in October.
“New international students are arriving, but recently graduated students may not have moved out of their room yet”, the municipal press release reads. That may play a role, but another significant obstacle for foreign students is rental listings on websites like Kamernet and Facebook specifying that they are only seeking Dutch-speaking tenants, despite the fact that the practice technically violates Dutch anti-discrimination laws.
The emergency housing is being made available as part of a covenant among the RUG, the Hanze, the municipality, the Groninger Student Union, SSH, ESN and several local housing corporations to improve housing in the city. The creation of the covenant, which was finalised last autumn, followed a number of high-profile protests, including the occupation of the Academy building, to draw attention to the structural issues with foreign student accommodations in the city. A motion by D66 for the establishment of 750 emergency housing units for foreign students was supported by the labour party, GroenLinks, VVD and ChristenUnie last year.
In the months preceding the vote, hundreds of international students who were still looking for longer term accommodations were housed in a former school house on the Metaallaan, a hotel boat, tents on the Zernike campus and even at the homes of university staff. According to the municipality, an additional 943 rooms should be built in the city between 2019 and 2020 – although the rooms will not be dedicated foreign student housing, the hope is that adding more units to the rental market will free up space for internationals to move in.