International students burdened by Delft housing shortage

International students at TU Delft are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing housing accommodations from abroad. With no knowledge of the current housing situation in Delft, many students face difficult challenges in obtaining suitable housing.

According to the latest results of the 2014 Student Housing Monitor, roughly 4% of the total student population in Delft has no access to student housing accommodations. Compared to other university cities in the Netherlands, approximately 60% of the students at TU Delft rent out rooms through student housing organization Duwo. Due to the overwhelming demand for student accommodations in Delft, a system of guaranteed housing was developed in cooperation with the university to ensure that international students find proper housing during their stay. As a result, Duwo reserves 1,700 rooms each year for incoming international students for a one-year period. Despite this housing guarantee, the system has given rise to a number of critical issues.

“Duwo has very stringent contracts with international students,” said Delft International Student Society Chairman Jad Masri. “The second biggest problem is the price. The rent is way above the market price if you compare it to non-Duwo accommodations.” This is due to the fact that most of Duwo’s international student housing is fully furnished and is serviced on a regular basis. Furthermore, costs such as utilities and municipality taxes are included in the rent.

“It is expensive,” said Duwo Accommodate Manager Gijsbert Mul. “The students’ complaints are justified in terms of the amount of money, but we are a social housing organization, not a private entity. We make a profit, but we have to reinvest our profits into new projects.” Indeed, over the next five years, Duwo plans to build an additional 1,300 accommodations for TU Delft’s growing student population and has recently provided 485 rooms at the new X-Ray building on Röntgenweg.

Obligated to provide affordable housing to students at TU Delft, Duwo has inadvertently secured a monopoly on the student housing market. “Duwo is the only social housing organization here in Delft that can provide the number of student accommodations that we actually need,” said TU Delft International Housing Coordinator Alexander van der Wel. “When the International Office first started, the head of our office spoke to all the other social housing organizations in Delft, but none of them were interested in student accommodations because it’s a different sport, let’s say.” Although TU Delft is open to new student housing initiatives in the city, Van der Wel claims that the university needs to ensure both the quality and quantity of these accommodations before any agreement can be made.

However, given the major shortage of student housing in Delft, the International Office has enlisted the help of the newly opened Student Hotel The Hague to provide housing accommodations to some 70 TU Delft international students. “Last summer, we experienced a huge shortage of accommodations, something we were not able to solve within Delft, so we had to look elsewhere,” van der Wel said. “What I like about The Student Hotel’s concept is that it offers short-stay accommodations but with hotel facilities. Of course, that is also reflected in the price.”

Located across the Den Haag Hollands Spoor train station, The Student Hotel The Hague offers 220 accommodations to students for a period of five to ten months. Moreover, an additional 90 rooms are reserved for hotel guests such as visiting family members and friends. While the current rental price ranges between €650 to €850 per month depending on the room type and the duration of reservation, special amenities including shared or en suite kitchens, laundry machines, recreational facilities, and top-of-the-line commuter bicycles are available to tenants and guests for daily use.

“Our hotel is like a 2.0 version of student housing,” said Hotel Manager Rinse Kempinga. “There’s a huge demand in terms of student accommodations for a safe environment and also a certain community environment. It’s always exciting for students to come to a new city and so we provide them with that safe environment where everyone can have the same unique experience.”

Although the price is justified by its upscale amenities, The Student Hotel rates are more than double that of DUWO accommodations. “The room is expensive, but I think it’s worth it,” said Engineering and Policy Analysis Master student Evan Clearesta. “I was trying to find accommodations in Delft, but DUWO did not have any more rooms, so the university proposed that I stay here.” In order to help offset their costs, TU Delft has provided rental subsidies to its international students who are residing at The Hotel.

“Quality-wise, it’s like moving into a new apartment,” said Aerospace Engineering Bachelor student Jakub Janowski. “The best thing about the hotel is that the community is pretty close and you get to know people from other universities.” Nevertheless, Janowski prefers to live much closer to the campus. “It’s an hour of travel everyday [to my faculty] so, in the end, I’d still like to move to Delft.”

As much as The Student Hotel is able to provide suitable housing accommodations to the international student community, the fact remains that the housing shortage in Delft is a burden to the stakeholders involved. Unfortunately, it is the international students who bear the brunt of the issue. With the entire TU Delft student population expected to reach 25,000 by 2022, it is clear that more housing initiatives are urgently needed.

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