Where to put your pillow?

| Niels ter Meer

Last week, the student housing landlord interest group Kences argued, out of concern for our wellbeing, that more people should live in student rooms. Just coincidentally of course, that would also be better for them. Student columnist Niels ter Meer thinks we should take their take with a big bag of salt.


Every year, together with the ministry, Kences  — the student housing landlord’s interest group — does research on the state of student housing. This year, for the first time, they also asked questions about students’ well-being, and their relationship with their housemates (for those who share a house and each rent a separate room, i.e. student rooms) or neighbours (for those who opted for a studio or an apartment). Unsurprisingly, the research showed that having a good relationship with those who sleep on the other side of the wall correlates somewhat positively to your well-being.

But not everyone lives in student rooms, or wants to — like me, for example. Before I moved here, I knew that that wouldn’t work for me. I already shuddered at the thought of having to sell myself to a group of strangers, praying that they would let me into their house. And let’s not talk about mandatory house activities — brrr. So, I took a high school friend, and — with, in retrospect, immeasurable amounts of luck — managed to rent an apartment for a very reasonable price.

Per Kences’ research, a lot of people seem to want this too. In an ideal world, only 15% of students would want to live in rooms. Taking rent and other expenses into account that jumps to 30, 40%-ish, depending on the student’s age. However, in reality, over 60% live in rooms; in some sense somewhere between 20% and 45% are therefore forced into their situation.

But Kences didn’t go with this, nooo. Instead, they assert, because more students with rooms reported good relationships with their housemates than students in studios with their neighbours, it must be better for them to live in the former. In an attempt to make this stick, they also asserted, without any proof or references, that if you live alone, you’re more likely to end up socially isolated. And because it’s so good for students, we should ‘encourage’ them to live in rooms; through rent subsidies for the students and less stringent rulemaking for them.

Ah, there it is. Instead of seeing a clear demand for more individual accommodations, they feigned(?) concern over our well-being, in order to lobby for both more money and less strict rule making. The most charitable take is that this is a massive communications fuck-up. They could have said that for some people, living in student rooms works great (they might even thrive there) but it does not make economic sense to build them, so we need the government’s help. But they didn’t; their eyes seemed locked onto the prize.

To me, it’s weird that we — or rather condescending and paternalistic landlords this time around— insist that moving into student rooms is some sort of ‘ascension’ ritual for students; that it is somehow better for them. Our trade school peers are renting whole ass houses at our ages, while uni students are stuck on their postcards. Why is it that students can only have a couple of square meters and shared accommodations, even if having a little bit more space, your own shower, toilet, and a kitchen would be better for both their well-being and maybe even their study performance?

The ironic thing is that they knew this. They wrote that housing can have a big impact on someone’s well-being. To me, it seems very bad for your well-being to live with twelve other people, if you preferred not to but had to. So Kences, shouldn’t that have been the conclusion‽

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.