Tenants’ associations exist in many cities to specifically represent students’ interests. As of now, they have a national umbrella organisation: the Netherlands Consultative Body of Student Tenants (LOS), to which ten associations are affiliated.
One of the initiators is Daan Roovers, a fifth-year chemistry student in Utrecht and chairperson of BoKS, the residents’ association of student housing provider SSH in Utrecht, Rotterdam, Groningen, Zwolle, Tilburg and Maastricht.
Why did you want to set up a national organisation for student tenants?
‘There were two reasons. The first is that the tenants’ associations for students have been operating like islands, all focused on their own cities. We felt the need to exchange knowledge with each other – after all, the work we do is fairly specialised. The other reason is that we want to represent the interests of students more effectively.’
But we also have the Dutch Tenants’ Union, and the Dutch student union LSVb.
‘We collaborate with the Tenants’ Union, which exists to represent all tenants. And the LSVb is there for all students. We focus specifically on students in rented accommodation. That’s a slightly different set of interests. The LSVb also does good work, but one needn’t cancel out the other.’
How do you intend to get things done? There’s little point in a strike.
‘You’re right, tenants can’t strike. At present, we are still finding our focus. We are orienting ourselves, getting to know organisations and the relevant players, but ultimately we want to influence policy. We want a place at the negotiating table.’
And what is your aim?
‘In some cities, students can spend three years or even longer on a waiting list. And in the coming years, tens of thousands more students are expected to be looking for housing. We want more affordable and sustainable accommodation for students, better legal protection and a smooth transition from student to starter on the housing market.’
In a column for the Dutch Tenants’ Union magazine (on behalf of BoKS, not LOS), Roovers argues that students renting rooms should also be entitled to subsidies, just like tenants in independent housing. In addition, he called for the ‘points system’ to be overhauled to cancel out the profitability gap between studios and rooms for housing associations.
Is that also the position LOS takes?
‘As an association, we have yet to discuss the official line we intend to take. It’s early days yet.’