During Eurekaweek, new students enjoy their lunch on the Binnenrotte. A few hundred metres away, in the lobby of the StayOkay hostel, first-year Nathan Garcia scrolls through the ads on the Kamernet rental platform. The International Business Administration student has no time for partying and socialising – he needs to find a room before his lectures start.
“I didn’t arrange a room before I came to the Netherlands because I have an aunt who lives in Gorinchem”, the Philippines student explains. He thought it would be easy to find a room from there. “But nothing could be further from the truth, it’s more practical to be in Rotterdam for viewings.” That is why he has been staying at the hostel since last Friday. “I reply fanatically to ads on Kamernet and various Facebook groups. I have been to two viewings so far. Unfortunately, they came to nothing.”
First-year student Anouk van der Heijden has also not yet found a room. The Criminology student lives in Eindhoven and has been registered with Stadswonen, the largest housing rental for students in Rotterdam, for over a year. She is also registered with SSH Student Housing and follows the Facebook group Kamers in Rotterdam.
“I’ve responded to more than eighty ads, but I was only invited once for a viewing”, she says. “I didn’t get it in the end because they wanted someone who is a member of a student association.”
Shortage of student housing
According to the National Student Housing Monitor, Rotterdam has 33,000 student rooms compared to 35,700 people looking for housing, which means there is a shortage of 2,700 rooms. Data from Stadswonen also shows a severe shortage of rooms. In 2022, 7841 registered students were actively looking for a room through Stadswonen, while the housing provider only had 1884 rooms available.
That’s why Stadswonen introduced ‘campus contracts’ in 2019. “You can only register with us and live in our properties if you can prove that you are studying full-time in Rotterdam,” she says. Mbo, hbo and wo is allowed. Because of the stricter rules, rooms become available more often.
Stadswonen also offers 1,100 houses for graduates. After your studies, you are allowed to live there for five years, then you are kindly requested to move,” Bruyninckx says. The tenants have to make room for students who have just finished their studies. Through the flow, student houses become available for new students.
Longer waiting times
Waiting times have become longer, says Isa Kleij, a Stadswonen advisor. In 2018, students found a room on average 10 months after registering, compared to 16 months last year. The range of available studios and apartments is much smaller, so the waiting lists for these are also longer: 34 months in 2018, almost four years in 2022.
“It is therefore wise to register as early as possible”, says Kleij. At Stadswonen, the minimum age is 17. “But we sometimes make exceptions, for example for mbo students, because they are on average 16 years old when they start”, Kleij explains.
Students who urgently need a room can apply for an urgency declaration at Stadswonen. They will then be given accommodation as soon as possible. You can get an urgency declaration if, for example, you are living in an unsafe home situation or if you have to travel more than two hours to get to university. Last year, 350 students received an urgency declaration, 186 of them because of the impending demolition of the Hoge Wiek student apartments. In 2021, the figure was 133. This large number of urgencies leads to longer waiting times for regular rentals.
International students can also benefit from the urgency housing scheme, but are often unaware of it, says Kleij. For instance, first-year student Louisa Krijger from Belgium is registered with Stadswonen, but this is the first time she has heard about it. She hails from Antwerp and is still looking for a room. “I want to build up a social life in Rotterdam, so I took the first place I could get”, she says. Through acquaintances, the Business Administration student found an apartment on the Bergstraat in Rotterdam-North. She pays 900 euros a month in rent. “I can’t really afford this place. It’s too big, and I even have a garden! I’d rather live in a student room with roommates than in an apartment on my own.”
The National Student Housing Monitor predicts that demand for student housing will continue to rise in the coming years, reaching 39,100 accommodations by 2030. “We also expect that the reintroduction of the basic student grant will encourage more students to look for housing”, Kleij adds.
The student housing supply is set to increase to 37,000 accommodations, according to the Monitor, but this will not be enough to overcome the shortage. “Of course, we’ll build more in the next few years, but demand is growing so fast that we cannot keep up”, Kleij says. Bruyninckx: “Although the municipality is very supportive when it comes to expanding student accommodation, building more housing is a tricky business. Sites for building are hard to find. What’s more, local residents are not exactly thrilled to hear that student accommodation is being built in their neighbourhood. They worry about the public nuisance that students can cause.”
Via Instagram, Louisa was invited to a viewing and interview with potential roommates on Tuesday. “I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a room in a mixed student house with 16 residents”, she said. “I hope I get lucky this time.” How much will the rent be? “I don’t know, it’s probably cheaper than my flat. I don’t even know how big the room is or what it looks like. It doesn’t matter, as long as I get one.”