Internationals looking for a room: ‘I’m basically homeless’

They sleep at friends’, in hotels and respond to dozens of advertisements. International students at TU Delft are desperate. How can they find a room?

TU Delft does not know how many international students currently have no accommodation. (Photo: Dalia Madi)

This academic year more than 2,000 international students enrolled for a bachelor’s or master’s at TU Delft. These students need somewhere to live, but rooms are scarce.

“More than 120 applications on Kamernet, 20 through, contact with 15 different estate agents and I can’t even count the ones on Facebook,” is how bachelor student Pratham sums up his efforts. Time is pressing. He has somewhere to sleep – a sublet at a friend’s – until the end of September.

No simple solution
During his search, Pratham approached TU Delft and Duwo, the student housing company. “They wished me luck, but could not do anything for me.”

What TU Delft can do is indeed limited, said a spokesperson. “We work with a number of renters and can access about 1,000 to 1,200 spaces for international students. But when the application ceiling for accommodation is reached, the registration is stopped.” That point was reached at the end of June this year. TU Delft does not know how many international students currently have no accommodation. 

‘I am now having to live with my brother in just a couple of square metres’

Reactions to a call on Instagram show that Pratham is definitely not the only desperate international student. “I have been looking for more than six months and am now having to live with my brother in his small room,” says an international bachelor student who wants to remain anonymous. “Last year I was assigned a room through the TU Delft Housing Service, but those rental contracts are only for one year max. So in fact, I’m basically homeless.” The student responded to ‘countless advertisements’ but the offering for internationals is limited. “Many advertisements clearly state that internationals are requested not to apply as the preference is for Dutch students.

Examples of advertisements where internationals are rejected in advance.

Apart from the tension and stress that living with his brother in a couple of square metre brings, there are also administrative worries. “I am still registered at my old address and this means that all my post goes there.” He cannot register residence at his brother’s and he cannot change his address at the municipality. “They ask for a copy of the rental contract and I can’t give one.” As a non-EU student he needs to have a residence permit for which registration at the municipality is required. “I am not too worried about that. The permit that I was granted last year does not affect where I am currently living.”

“According to the Personal Records Database Act (BRP) it is obligatory to pass on a change of address,” says a spokesperson from the municipality of Delft. “If you have no fixed residential address, you can always apply for a correspondence address. Such an address is valid for six months.”

Without the right papers in the lecture hall
Still, there are students currently residing in the Netherlands who are not registered at the municipality. They took the advice of TU Delft not to travel to Delft without suitable accommodation and ‘just’ slipped in and joined the lectures. 

This is striking as registering a valid Dutch address at the local municipality is a legal requirement for anyone staying in the Netherlands for four months or more. This is regardless of nationality or reason for residence. It is also a requirement to study at TU Delft. That said, TU Delft does not check this. “We cannot and may not do so,” says the spokesperson. This rule, by the way, only applies to students from outside the European Economic Zone. European students do not need a permit.

“But they do need a room,” comments a Hungarian bachelor student. As he was unable to find accommodation before the start of the academic year, he stayed in his home country. TU Delft showed understanding for his situation and offered him hybrid education until October. “After that, I have to be physically present.” At the moment he is responding to rooms from Hungary. Unsuccessfully. “I was always rejected because I could not be there in person during the ‘hospiteeravonden’ (open house evenings, best described as a form of speed dating to find the best match for the house).”

‘We are fully booked’

One option for international students who are unable to find rooms is The Student Hotel that opened last year. Students can rent rooms here for one semester or the entire academic year. In contrast to ‘ordinary’ hotels, students may register at the municipality here.

Despite prices exceeding EUR 700 a month, The Student Hotel in Delft is bursting at the seams. There are about 260 students at the moment and all the rooms are fully booked until August 2022,” says Assistant Operations Koen Wilmer.

There is also little available space at the WestCord Hotel, that recently started offering student rooms. “We are fully booked throughout September,” says a staff member. For October, of the 30 designated rooms, seven are available at EUR 995 a month. “But I expect some of the current guests to extend their stay.”

No guarantee
The situation is desperate, but that it is hard for international students to find a room is nothing new. “It’s been like this for years,” says the TU Delft spokesperson. “This problem is widely recognised and is connected to the current situation of the housing market. There is no simple solution. We have warned international students of the difficult housing situation in advance for years. We do not want to create false hope and we thoroughly inform prospective students.”

I am in a WhatsApp group with more than 100 students who are looking for accommodation’

Nevertheless, Pratham would like to see TU Delft go a step further. “The TU Delft website advises, for example, deferring your study by a year if you are unable to find accommodation. But deferral does not guarantee that you will be able to find a room the next year.”

TU Delft gives this advice for a reason, explains the spokesperson. “We want to make it explicitly clear that it is important to start looking for accommodation on time. Doing so at the last minute is really hard.”

In the meantime, Pratham is doing everything he can to stay. “I respond to all the accommodation that is offered. Even to houses with five bedrooms. I am in a WhatsApp group with more than 100 students who are looking for accommodation so we can fill the rooms in a jiffy.”

News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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