Will there be enough rooms for international students in September? Last year saw a large shortage. Will there be a turn for the better? The Hanze hopes so, but if dreams come true…
Summertime, like every year, prospective students are busy looking for accommodation. That is already difficult for Dutch students, but for international students it is even tougher. Last academic year the room shortage rose to unprecedented levels. In September 2021 many students had to sleep in emergency shelters, on people’s couches or at the Groningen campsite. In previous years, the situation at the start of the academic year was also precarious.
The unlucky ones had no other choice but to move to a stranger’s couch or to return home
When International Communication student Alekss came to Groningen two years ago, he knew that finding accommodation would be difficult. ‘But I didn’t know how bad the situation was. One can safely speak of a housing crisis.’
He wasn’t the only one who thought of a crisis. Desperate students proceeded to occupy the Academy Building in September. Because even in the emergency shelter there was not enough space for all international students in need. They had no other choice but to move to a stranger’s couch. Or, if that also failed, to return to their native countries.
Alekss, who had spent his first year in a room where he could only stay temporarily, went looking for a new roof over his head last summer. ‘That’s when it started to get really hard.’
He had little luck with Facebook and Kamernet. ‘I got about fifteen to twenty offers, but there were a lot of scammers among them.’ How did he find out? ‘They didn’t offer a viewing of the accommodations, so I cycled by myself to see. It often turned out those houses did not even exist.’
If you have several options for a room, make sure you keep them all open
‘It was a very stressful period’, says Alekss. He does not consider Hanze responsible for the problem, but he strongly feels that clearer communication about the housing situation in the Netherlands should be provided.
First-year student International Business Christian agrees. ‘I think ninety percent of the problem is communication. Hanze should really say: if you have several options, keep them all open. And if you don’t have a room? Then please don’t come.’
The protesters at the Academy Building made an appeal to improve communication too. After that, agreements were made with Hanze UAS and the University of Groningen. ‘By improving communication with international students, international students can realistically estimate their chances of obtaining housing and then decide whether or not to come’, says the Hanze spokesperson.
No room on August 1? That means high expenses, inconvenience and lots of stress
That message can also be found on the Hanze website. ‘Make sure you have found a room before 1 August if you are going to study in Groningen. If you decide to come to Groningen without a room, then you will most likely have to rely on hotels or hostels for a longer period of time, if they have accommodation available at all. This causes high expenses, inconvenience and stress. If you do not have a room after August 1? Then we advise you not to come to Groningen.’
Stress, expenses and inconvenience, Christian has experienced what these words are referring to. During his search for a room, he only found temporary shelter. He knew he would have to find new accommodation last June, so he started house hunting again in February. Christian created a document with about fifteen links to real estate websites that he checked daily. ‘Nothing worked. I spent an hour and a half every day searching in the hope that I would be invited for a viewing. When I got there, there were about twenty other candidates.’
Since he started his search as early as February, Christian had the advantage of time. ‘But it started to get more and more stressful.’ After a long search, he found a new room in early June. Just in time.
Quite a few international students ended up in emergency shelters last year. These are, to put it mildly, not ideal places to stay. To put an end to some of the uncertainty the emergency shelter programme will look different next year. The plan is to make it possible to reserve beds during peak periods. As a result, new international students know before their arrival whether there is a place to sleep for them. They can then decide whether or not to come. This fits in with the message that Hanze is now propagating more explicitly.
The Hanze is aiming for 260 emergency shelter beds this summer
Christian is not very optimistic that things will improve. ‘It will probably not get better next year, because due to the covid period that is behind us, Groningen will have to deal with more new people than last year’, he expects.
In any case, September is always a peak period, says the Hanze spokesperson. ‘New international students are arriving, while graduate students have often not left their rooms yet.’ For the time being, Hanze expects 260 emergency shelter beds. But: ‘Due to the tight market and the exceptional circumstances, it is not yet certain whether we can fully realise this number.’
This article was written by Esther Smolders and Nathalie Denie, the photo of the emergency shelter at the Sports complex at Zernike in 2018 was taken by Luuk Steemers.