Student housing: continuing to build together in times of crisis
Due to coronavirus, the vacancy rate among student accommodation providers is increasing, but the parties want to maintain the production of new student accommodation. They are also continuing their joint efforts to strengthen the provision of information for Dutch and international students and secondary school pupils. That's according to Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren in a letter to the House of Representatives on the progress of the National Student Housing Action Plan 2018-2023 (LAS).
In the letter, she outlines the situation regarding student housing during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, international students were recalled and/or returned to their country of origin. New exchange students are not expected to come to the Netherlands at the start of the next academic year, leaving many rooms reserved for international students empty. In Amsterdam, the parties involved acted quickly to address the expected decrease. Read what they did here.
In addition, some Dutch students lost part of their income, which made paying the rent more difficult. As a result, it was agreed by landlord organisations and sector associations not to evict students as a result of payment problems caused by the coronavirus crisis. Students in acute financial difficulties can also temporarily increase their loan amount and the right to travel by public transport has been extended by three months. Furthermore, students will receive financial compensation if they graduate between September 2020 and the end of January 2021.
"Keeping production going"
Despite the decreasing demand for student housing, Kajsa Ollongren is striving to expand the supply of student accommodation. This is in line with the National Student Housing Action Plan for 2018-2023. Ollongren: "It is precisely at this time that we need to maintain production in order to ensure that our future students will also have good-quality, affordable accommodation." The minister notes that almost all university towns have firm plans to build new student housing. Last year, for example, almost 8,000 new accommodation units were built. In addition, there are plans for more than 26,000 new units for students in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen and elsewhere.
Strengthening local consultation
Local consultations on student housing are now well underway, according to Minister Ollongren. "I am happy to see that local consultations between municipalities, student accommodation providers, educational institutions and students are taking off on a structural basis in more and more places." In addition, neighbouring municipalities are increasingly joining forces to solve problems relating to student housing. The same applies to fighting discrimination in the housing market and tackling rogue landlords.
Information provision to current and future students
In these times of crisis, lack of accommodation is not the only problem, according to the letter to the House of Representatives. Many students also have questions about their rights, especially with regard to premature termination of their tenancy agreement. The availability of reliable information for students is very important in this respect. A major effort has recently been made to make the information provided suitable for international students. In addition, the Dutch Student Union (LSVb) will be producing an information tool kit for secondary school pupils in the near future. In the next academic year, the LSVb will also be launching an online campaign to provide secondary school pupils with even better information on student housing.