An apartment building.
Duwo student complex at the Van Hasseltlaan. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

The availability of student housing is declining rapidly, the Dutch Student Union warns. And it could get worse, now that the government is going to tackle the rental market.

Lees in het Nederlands

The government has devised a variety of measures to curb housing market excesses. For instance, rents must never be too high in the future: the limit will apply to far more housing than is the case at present. In addition, house owners will pay more wealth tax on their properties in future.

That makes letting them less attractive, landlords and estate agents warn. Some owners are believed already to be in the process of selling their properties and that could have an effect on students.

“Alarm bells are now ringing”, says LSVb chair Joram van Velzen. “We are totally in favour of housing market regulation and a fairer tax system, but not at the expense of the number of rooms for rent.”

The waiting lists for social student housing can extend to a couple of years, so most students rent directly from a private landlord. It takes an average of five months to find accommodation.

‘We are in favour of giving room tenants a rent allowance’

The LSVb is afraid that it will get even harder. The union is now advocating a rent allowance for room tenants in combination with higher rents. That ought to ensure that landlords do not get rid of their student houses.

Rent allowance, but a higher rent. How does that benefit the students?
“Maybe it’s a controversial idea, but we believe it will benefit students in the long run. At least they will have accommodation and they won’t be worse off financially.”

Why would more student rooms be saved in that scenario?
“The government’s course will ensure that more accommodation will have a maximum rent. Students are generally paying too much at the moment, so rents have to come down significantly. But then it will no longer be profitable to let the rooms. In fact, that is already the case, so an increasing number of student houses are disappearing. That’s why we are in favour of giving room tenants a rent allowance; the rents can then be increased slightly and the accommodation will remain available.”

Aren’t you dancing to the house owners’ tune?
“No, it’s a genuine problem. It also comes up in our discussions with the ministry. More student rooms are needed, because that’s actually more efficient than building stand-alone housing. But you must at least have the option to build that housing. Stand-alone studios are profitable, student rooms are not. That’s because you can ask a higher rent for those studios and students also get a rent allowance.”

Is raising the rent the only way of retaining student housing?
“Maybe private student houses could be placed with social housing corporations. You could consider that type of arrangement too. But something needs to be done.”

HOP, Bas Belleman
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU