This week, the local chapter of CDA submitted written questions to the council in response to these findings. “Rotterdam has developed into a typical student town. This is something to be proud of,” according to the coalition party.
Nevertheless, the Christian Democrats would like to know what kind of income the municipality is missing out on due to these hidden citizens. They’d also like to hear what the administration can do to encourage students to register, and what the Municipal Executive’s explanation is for why a share of them choose not to. CDA also wonders which measures the Deputy Mayor plans on taking if it turns out the decision not to register has more to do with the students’ landlords than the students themselves.
Christine Zandberg, dual city councillor and spokesperson of CDA Rotterdam, was taken aback by the large percentage of phantom students. “I think it’s a major problem, particularly when you consider students’ safety. It’s important that we know how many people live in our city. And a situation where landlords can withhold tenants from registering with the Municipality is undesirable.”
For the time being, Zandberg isn’t sure which steps the local administration can take to remedy this problem. “We want to start by gaining an idea of how large this group is. After that, we want to think about how we can best bring this to students’ attention and encourage them to register.”
Because not registering as a Rotterdam resident has its drawbacks. Practically speaking, students won’t be able to apply for a passport or driving licence, nor can they vote in the city’s municipal elections. In addition, notes CDA, the municipality has a duty of care versus its citizens.
Because it’s ‘of vital importance’ for fire safety and emergency assistance that the responders know how many people actually live at a specific address. And financial considerations also play a role for the Municipality. Because the Netherlands’ municipal funding system pays Rotterdam a standard amount for every citizen registered. In other words, when students refrain from registering, the Municipality actually gets less money than it should.
Utrecht and Leiden
Incidentally, Rotterdam probably isn’t the only municipality battling the issue of phantom students. Utrecht, for example, is supposedly cheated of millions of euros due to the 2,500-3,000 local students who haven’t registered there, and Leiden is looking at some 1.8 million in missed income.
Erasmus Magazine sent the results of its poll to a number of parties in November 2019. Apart from CDA, they were GroenLinks, VVD and D66.