Desperately in need of rooms

Boudewijn Otten 21 August, 2018

Providing accommodation to about three thousand students from abroad, that is the challenge Groningen faces the upcoming weeks. For the majority of these students, a solution is on the horizon, but not for everyone. ‘We do whatever we can, but a score of one hundred percent is not realistic’, says Sabrina Stroe of the International Service Desk at Hanze University of Applied Sciences. ‘The number of international students in Groningen has doubled in two years. Providing three thousand accommodations is not easy, but in this period, in which the room shortage is at its peak level, it is even more difficult.’ It is no coincidence that the foreigners who have found a room are those who started searching early.

‘Some parents are desperate: do you let your daughter go when you are not sure she will get a roof over her head?’

‘The moment they enrol at the Hanze, we emphasize that they have to look for accommodation. We recommend them to register immediately. Most students who do so in March will have a room in September.’
The problem is that not all candidates know in March they will study in Groningen in September. ‘There are students who enrol for study programmes in multiple places. Other students are dependent on the decisions of other parties. For example, Hanze has two master’s degree programs that start in September, but have been approved by NVAO just before the holidays. These students weren’t able to register before June.’
The International Service Desk is trying to assist the homeless students. Sabrina: ‘Students pay us a visit or get to us by email and social media. Messages from parents often echo despair. Logically, they are worried. Do you have to let your daughter go when you are not sure she will get a roof over her head?’
Room rent in the Netherlands is high, making problems even worse. ‘In Romania, where I come from, you pay fifty euros for a shared room on campus. In Holland a rent of 350 euros is quite normal.’

Group tents on the ACLO, a bed on the sleeping boat for € 1000, emergency shelter in a former retirement home, it is not ideal

Last year, students from abroad were so desperately in need of digs they felt compelled to pitch tents in the city. This year Groningen wants to avoid this at all costs. The municipality has the necessary emergency provisions at hand. Two Groningen buildings serve as reception locations: the former retirement home Rikkers Lubbers on Heresingel and an old office for addiction care at the Vondellaan. But that is not enough, according to Sabrina: ‘From Monday next week there will be tents for fifteen to thirty people on the sports centre Aclo. Twelve euros per night per person. It is not much, just for shelter, but at least you can sleep there. In addition, there is the sleeping boat in the Eemskanaal, which is way more expensive, a thousand euros per month, but on the other hand it includes the meals.’ It is far from ideal, Sabrina thinks. ‘Groningen is the best student city in the world, I say that to everyone, and it is the truth. It is a pity that their beautiful adventures begin with this uncertainty. It’s nice that I can support them, but also a little frustrating that I often have to disappoint them.’
Meanwhile a residential container village is growing on the Suikerunieterrein. Every day twenty fresh housing containers for international students become available (eventually the village will count 249 containers). The rent for these accommodations is 500 euros per month. Sabrina: ‘Their popularity is enormous. It takes just a few minutes before they are taken.’