‘Housing providers, build more shared student accommodation’

Student associations are again calling on housing corporations to build housing with communal areas now that a Delta survey shows that students prefer shared accommodation.

(Photo: Justyna Botor)

It has been the subject of discussion among students, student associations, municipalities and housing corporations for years: do students prefer to live in self-contained studios with private amenities or in houses with other students where they share the kitchen, shower and other amenities? The municipality of Delft says that students prefer living in self-contained accommodation while a joint survey by the Stip political party, the Oras student council party and the WijWonen residents’ association conclude the opposite.

This was the reason that Delta ran its own independent survey. The questionnaire results showed that 62% of the bachelor and transition students at TU Delft living away from home prefer to share accommodation with housemates.

Ama Boahene, Chair of the Landelijke Studentenvakbond (Dutch Student Union, LSVb), is happy that an independent investigation was done. “It is good to see in black and white that shared accommodation is the preferred housing type for so many students,” she says. She recognises the picture that the survey paints, as do parties such as SHS Wonen and the WijWonen residents association. “We often hear from tenants that they are pleased to have housemates with whom they can eat and do things,” says Floor Straver of WijWonen. Joost van Iersel, Chair of SHS Wonen says that “Certainly during the Covid crisis when online teaching led to some students feeling isolated, housemates became extremely important.”

Rent points and rent subsidy
The housing needs of TU Delft students is in sharp contrast to the building policy over the years. Of the 4,676 housing units that were built in the last 10 years in Delft, more than half are self-contained units such as studios. Duwo, the student housing corporation that has built thousands of homes in Delft, too has mostly built studios in the last few years. The Director of the Delft branch, Hans Pluim, explains that there are two reasons for this. “The standards that newbuilds have to meet, and certainly given the sustainability needs of the Netherlands, are extremely high. The rent point system also requires us to set a maximum rent for non-self-contained student rooms. As the sustainability requirements are not reflected in the rent point system, it is virtually impossible to earn a return on non-self-contained newly built accommodation.” He continues. “Then consider that residents can apply for a rent subsidy for self-contained accommodation. We can rent out self-contained studios at a higher price than non-self-contained student rooms.”

Along with other student accommodation corporations in the Netherlands, Pluim too calls on rent subsidy to be applicable to non-self-contained accommodation. “This would make it easier for student accommodation corporations to build more shared housing.” The LSVb too supports this solution. “We have been lobbying for this for years,” says Boahene.

SHS is building shared accommodation
There is one property developer in Delft that has managed to build shared housing in the last few years: SHS Delft. The SHS Delft Foundation is converting empty buildings into temporary shared housing. Van Iersel says that “As a foundation we do not build to make a profit, but simply to give students a good room. We explicitly tell the investors that want to work with us that they need to have a social goal.”

Karin Schrederhof, the Delft Alderman for Housing, is thinking about another way to encourage housing providers to build more shared housing: a subsidy on a whole building. A subsidy on a building enables housing corporations to build buildings on the condition that the rent remains below a certain level. Pluim of Duwo believes that a building subsidy would help too. “It would have the same effect on us as rent subsidies.”

Studio with communal space
In recent years Duwo has worked on a new form of housing: studios with communal spaces. This gives students a shared space and Duwo can still build buildings that qualify for rent subsidies. The student housing corporation has already built complexes like this in Wageningen and Amsterdam. Pluim believes that this kind of housing could be built in Delft too. “We would not be able to adapt the building projects that are already underway, but we could do this for the projects that are yet to start.”

SHS Chair Van Iersel applauds the idea, though he does have one proviso. “The communal space must have a kitchen so that you also go there even when you are not aware that you need social contact.”

News editor Annebelle de Bruijn

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