André van Wijk is standing in his garden, which is seven metres long and borders on the garden of his neighbours at the back. Diagonally behind them is the student house on Voorschoterlaan that bothers him the most. He points to the building’s white-painted roof terrace. “If they are chatting there in broad daylight, I can hear their conversations loud and clear. It has a courtyard garden, so the sound reverberates a lot.”
Kralingen residents fed up with anti-social behaviour by students
Students are ‘major nuisance’ in Kralingen, according to residents.
Lowlands festival site
The parties are much worse, lasting at least until four in the morning. Then he turns on his mint-green retro fan in the bedroom. “The sound of the fan lets me hear the yelling outside less,” he says. He recently installed an air conditioner and soundproofed the windows in his bedroom. “The air conditioning is, of course, nice in summer, but it’s especially the hum that helps muffle the noise.”
Van Wijk moved to the Lusthofkwartier In 2007. He found the neighbourhood ‘really cool’ and it was precisely the diversity in the district that attracted him. “You have everything here: nice restaurants, students, families and social housing.” The neighbourhood, which was once ‘very quiet’, has become a ‘Lowlands festival site’ over the past two years, in his opinion. “It’s fine that students live here – students have been walking around here for decades,” he emphasises. “The problem is that there are now too many of them living in the area who are causing a nuisance.”
The Municipality of Rotterdam is working on an action plan to tackle the disturbances caused by students in Kralingen. At the end of September, a residents’ evening was held where residents and organisations shared their complaints with the alderman, among others. The presidents of the student associations RSC/RVSV and Laurentius were also present. There was no representative from Erasmus University.
Pee and puke everywhere
On a weekday afternoon, Vredehofstraat, where Van Wijk lives, looks quiet and village-like. From the outside, you cannot tell whether there are any student houses: there are no bicycles, rubbish bags or beer crates on the pavement. As Van Wijk walks down the street, two young neighbours enter their house with full shopping bags. They greet each other in a friendly way.
The street has recently been revamped. It was given new paving and residents themselves have attached trellises to the facades for climbing plants. “This is how we want to make things nice and hospitable for each other,” says Van Wijk. He points to two large black-and-white photos of the old street hanging above the trellises. He also added a new wooden garden bench in front of his home. It was not long before that dark brown bench was vomited on by a student. A little later, he shows a video in which a student is nonchalantly urinating against a bicycle storage. “This video was sent to me by my neighbours,” he says. “Terrible, isn’t it?”
Giant public toilet
Van Wijk’s story is far from unique, confirms Paul Driessen, vice-chair of the residents’ association Kralingen-Oost. He himself lives on the Kralingse Plaslaan, a long boulevard with houses on one side and the Kralingse Plas on the other. The green lawns on the other side of his house are a popular spot for students to barbecue. “Sometimes I have two hundred students outside my door”, he states. They talk loudly and leave rubbish everywhere on the grass. “And over there along the Langepad it’s one giant public toilet,” Driessen continues. Bits of toilet paper lie on the ground in the bushes beside the path. And he is not just talking about a minor toilet incident, he emphasises. “It’s not fun when I’m walking my dog because he eats everything that is lying on the ground.”
But the Lusthofkwartier suffers the most, Driessen says as well. On that rainy afternoon, three students walked into the supermarket and left ten minutes later with a bag of groceries and two crates of Jupiler beer. Three bicycles are parked under the roof of the Primera, next to the entrance – probably so that they won’t get wet, because the bike parking in front of the shops is empty. A little further on, in front of the Voorschoterlaan metro station, a shopping trolley has been left behind among the parked bicycles and shared scooters.
The disturbances caused by students have increased over the last three years as a result of the so-called room-letting of private housing, says Driessen. Speculators and rich parents bought houses and put students in them. “And the situation has reached a low point in the last two years.” Residents have done everything they can to tackle the disturbances. “Especially in the last year, they have regularly reported disturbances and called the police or the municipality.”
A decent conversation
In addition, residents also try to have a conversation with the students, Van Wijk says. Last year, the residents of the Lusthofkwartier made flyers with a number of requests ‘in plain language’ (‘Close your windows and doors if there is lots of noise in the house’, ‘It would be nice if it were quieter after 8 pm and quiet at 10 pm‘, ‘If you have something to celebrate, talk to your next-door neighbours or those opposite you and exchange telephone numbers if need be’). Local residents personally handed over the flyers and addressed the students about the disturbances. “It was a decent conversation, but when these disturbances are repeated over and over again, you cannot expect the residents to want to continue the conversation.”
After three years, Van Wijk says, they had had enough. “It is strange that you ask what the residents have done about the disturbances. It’s being treated differently because it involves students. If we were dealing with a criminal gang, you wouldn’t ask the residents: ‘What are you going to do about it?’”
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Apart from the the Lusthofkwartier, the Struisenburg neighbourhood also has to deal with trouble from students. “Residents of Struisenburg are also fed up with the noise”, says Sonja Krijgsman. “Students party late into the night with far too many people in a house that’s way too small.” Krijgsman has lived in a flat on the Honingerdijk for seventeen years. Her kitchen window looks out over the green Trompenburg and the Excelsior Stadium. She points to the grass field in front of the stadium. That’s where drunken students often lie down after a party, she says. On such nights, even in her bedroom on the tenth floor, she hears the shouting and screeching of students. “I have to close my windows, otherwise I can’t sleep.”
There are several student houses in the building next to her. The narrow path between those two buildings stinks of weed and the planters are crammed with rubbish. Along the street, bicycles and scooters are parked willy-nilly on the pavement and are a thorn in Krijgsman’s side. “A lot of older people live here, and they can no longer get past with their rollators or scooters”, Krijgsman explains.
Over the years, Krijgsman has witnessed how young families have left Struisenburg and houses have been converted into student accommodation. “I think it’s a shame. Kralingen is becoming a student area, but this is not a good development. I understand that students want to live close to the EUR and that’s not a bad thing, but they shouldn’t overrun everything.” Are the disturbances due to corona? Krijgsman: “No. It started long before corona.”
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According to Driessen, the municipality needs to maintain stricter control to solve this problem. Krijgsman agrees. “The municipality should revoke permits more quickly if student houses fail to comply with the rules,” she continues. “In addition, there should be more student housing, but not in Kralingen. We already have enough of it.”
The student population should be spread throughout the city, Driessen believes. “If you only have one student house in the neighbourhood, then you will only be bothered by a student party once a week, instead of every day.”
Role of the EUR
All three residents also agree that there is a role laid out for Erasmus University. “The EUR is a big player in this story, but up until now the university has been absent in this whole saga”, Van Wijk points out. Krijgsman adds: “In addition to the municipality and the students themselves, the EUR is also responsible for this, but the university is not shouldering that responsibility.”
The residents of the Lusthofkwartier want only one thing, Van Wijk notes: to get a decent night’s sleep. “If we are not taken seriously, moving is the only option. It’s unbelievable that this problem has been allowed to go on for years.”
Response spokesperson Erasmus University
“The EUR’s housing policy only applies to first-year international students. According to the law, EUR is not allowed to build housing itself, we depend on the market for this. We try to reserve housing for some of the students. down to 1150 rooms with various cooperation partners.”
“The housing policy is a service we offer, but we have no formal responsibility for the behavior of a student in a housing. Most of the students are young adults and must take responsibility for the behavior themselves. In addition, the first point of contact is, in case of nuisance, the landlord.”