If you didn’t know this before, you know now: the months of August and September are for students equivalent of open season for hunters. It follows the same eat-or-be-eaten-principle: you make finding suitable housing your mission, or else you’ll risk ending up crashing on your friend’s dirty couch (on which they may or may not have done some questionable things) for the next semester. Do you identify with this situation? You’re not alone. There’s a steady increase in the amount of internationals that come to the Netherlands to study every year, and some cities struggle to keep up with the current demand. Dutch students are usually preferred over internationals, because they probably will be staying for a longer period of time. This leaves the students who leave their home abroad to find a new one here in a very insecure position.
The Dutch Student Union and Erasmus Student Network have joined forces to help students with this issue and launched a Housing Hotline. On the website, students can submit questions, complaints and and tips about their current or past housing situation. “We do our best to personally get in touch with every student that reaches out to us to find a suitable solution”, says one organising member. As for now, it’s hard to tell which cities face the most challenges with student accommodation for internationals, but a report based on the responses to the Housing Hotline will be released this December.
“Finding a place in the Hague has been relatively easy for me”, says a third-year student of International Studies (The Hague). “There were almost no background checks, and no requirements. I sent off my passport, did the security deposit and contract stuff, and it was all fine”. Unfortunately, not everyone is equally lucky in finding a decent place to live. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find numerous desperate calls from internationals for a temporary room in Facebook housing groups in other cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. They are faced with housing ads that explicitly state #dutchonly or #nointernationals. They often get rejected because of their nationally or inability to speak Dutch, or never even get a reply at all.
Laurence, who has been unable to find a place in Utrecht shares her story:
“I had a contact elsewhere for a year, nothing more and nothing less. I couldn’t leave the contract to move earlier and now I am visiting my family and it is impossible to attend hospiteeravonden. I think there is a huge shortage of rooms for both Dutch and international students but I feel like the internationals face additional barriers, mainly the famous language barrier and the hospiteeravonden which many can’t attend if they’re still abroad. Additionally, the everlasting argument to accept people into their houses to form some kind of close relationship, a family, and that internationals are not fit for that because they might not stay long is just discriminating. The university doesn’t help, student housing agency only reserves houses for a year. Unless you know someone who has a free room, it is truly hard to find a place to live.”
Still looking for a place and feeling a little overwhelmed with what you just read? Don’t worry, there are plenty of options to check out before rushing to the Housing Hotline. DUWO (www.duwo.nl) is the biggest accommodator of student housing in the Netherlands and rents out about 30.000 rooms across the country. The Student Hotel (www.thestudenthotel.com) offers fantastic studios (from 2 weeks up to 12 months) in Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam, Groningen and Maastricht. Also don’t forget look around for local housing projects in your city and area. Earlier this year The Y (www.y-thehague.com) was built right next to HS train station and now houses both working professionals and students. Projects like these are practically popping up everywhere across the country in response to the housing shortage.
Even if you have been able to find your dream place, the Housing Hotline might still be something useful for you to check out. Had an altercation with your landlord and want to know your rights as a renter of the accommodation? Did you get bills on your doormat (in Dutch) and can’t figure out what it means? They might be able to help you and make your time living and studying a little more relaxing.