Petition housing crisis: ‘A solution is urgently needed’

| Jelle Posthuma

International students are struggling to find housing in Enschede this year. A petition by ESN Twente about the ‘housing crisis’ already gathered more than a thousand signatures.

Photo: student flats on campus.

In order to bring the housing problem to the attention of the UT, Saxion and the municipality, Erasmus Student Network Twente (ESN) started an online petition. ‘The housing supply has hardly increased in recent years,' says Fabian Jazbek of ESN. ‘While the number of students has risen sharply. This results in a chaotic situation.’

The ESN board members noticed how many people responded to room advertisements. ‘Almost always there are more than a hundred reactions. This year, international students in particular are desperately looking for a place to stay. This also makes them vulnerable to scammers: the shortage makes people less careful when looking for a room.' According to Jazbek, the situation has worsened in recent years. 'That's why we think it's time to make our voices heard with this petition.'

Internationalization

For international students, it is especially difficult to find a room, he continues. ‘For non-EEC students, the UT arranges accommodation in the first year. But European students are not entitled to anything. We hear stories that they even come to Twente for a week to look for a room. We haven't seen that before.’

According to ESN, the UT is also responsible for student accommodation. ‘The university wants to project an image of being friendly to international students. Almost all studies are offered in English. But we think that the UT should communicate more honestly about the housing problems, and above all not create false expectations.’

Temporary housing

ESN says it is trying to be an intermediary between the UT and the students. ‘Our aim is to start a dialogue with the educational institutions and the municipality. Last Monday, we had our first meeting at the university. It turned out that in the short term the UT is looking at the possibility of tents on campus to provide temporary housing for students at the beginning of the academic year.’

The ESN board members are hoping for a long-term solution. For example, by bringing the problems to the attention of local real estate developers. ‘However, we do not know yet what exactly is needed. With our petition, we intend to show that a solution is urgently needed, and that the educational institutions and the municipality must take action.'

Response of the UT

The UT is familiar with the petition and the housing problems, says spokesman Laurens van der Velde. Last Monday the university discussed the issue with ESN and the Student Union. ‘We are also receiving signals from students. Possibly the demand exceeds the supply this year. It is now important to find out exactly how big the problem is.’

Together with housing providers, the UT wants to 'optimise' the current supply in the short term. ‘We can't build new housing instantly,' says the spokesperson. ‘But we can make sure that the current supply is as large as possible.’

The university also encourages students to look for alternative housing options as creatively as possible, for example in cities such as Almelo, Hengelo or in the German city of Gronau. Van der Velde confirms that temporary housing for students in tent camps on campus is a possible option. ‘But only if there is a prospect of housing afterwards. We do not want to create false expectations by providing temporary housing if there is no follow-up.’

Housing market

For the long term, the UT is not the decisive party and it is rather a municipal task, says Van der Velde. ‘The whole housing market in the Netherlands is difficult at the moment. Everyone is running into problems. Recent graduates cannot find affordable housing, so they stay in their student accommodation. This, in turn, is not conducive to the influx of new students.’

According to Van der Velde, the housing shortage is not related to internationalization and the accompanying growth in the number of students. ‘The current signals about the housing market are relatively new. Previously, there was always a good match between supply and demand. The problem is more complex than just our own influx of new students.’

The spokesperson also says that both Dutch and international students are struggling to find housing in Enschede. ‘However, Dutch students can often stay with their parents for the first few months. That is a lot harder if you have to come from Athens or Bucharest.'