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International students struggling to find a room, but are more successful than last year

Joris Habraken
Illustratie: Joris Habraken

The situation for international students looking for a room at Avans is better than at this time last year. In Breda alone, there are an additional 56 rooms this year. These rooms have come from the private rental sector and the Municipality of Breda’s landlord/landlady scheme (hospitaregeling). However, the lack of student rooms remains a problem, certainly nationwide.

Cooperation with housing corporations has provided Avans with rooms for international students for years. This is unfortunately no longer enough to meet the great demand. For a year and a half now, the university of applied sciences has managed to find additional rooms for students in the private sector. This resulted in 56 places in Breda alone, on top of the 118 rooms via corporations. “That’s an enormous increase with almost 50 percent more than what we had. We are very pleased”, say Annelijne Verburgt, Jimi Menke and Sabine Soet. They work at the International Office (IO) and are responsible for the accommodation of international students at Avans. They do, however, indicate that these extra rooms may not all be available in the next academic year because the private individuals and landlords/landladies may have other future plans for their rooms.

Last year, some international students had to sleep in hostels because they had no other place to live. At the start of this academic year, a number of students also approached the International Office because they did not have a permanent place to stay. Avans was unable to help all of them, which resulted in some of them having to return home. The university of applied sciences advises students not to come to the Netherlands if they do not have a place to live. “We still warn them that if they don’t arrange things themselves, we can’t always help them. But there are always students who are bold and take the plunge”, says Verburgt. We do not have exact figures as not all students contact the IO. They sometimes only report to the School Administrative Office.

Landlord/landlady scheme
The growth in the number of rooms for international students in Breda has several reasons in addition to the extra rooms from the private sector. The housing shortage subject matter, for example, has also received a lot of national media attention, which, according to Avans employees, has contributed to solutions. The university of applied sciences also joined the hospitaregeling (landlord/landlady scheme) in Breda, an initiative of the municipality. This scheme allows homeowners to make one or two rooms available to students. They receive an allowance for doing so. About 20 students currently have a room under this scheme. Students of Breda University of Applied Sciences are also eligible for this scheme.

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Furthermore, the appointment of Sabine Soet, a former estate agent in Breda, to the International Office also helped. “I have a network and called lots of people. That network kept expanding”, she explains. Verburgt says: “The great commitment of our people, and the investment in time and assistance by the municipality and external parties has also been very helpful.”

Contractually, Avans can request 10 percent more rooms from housing corporations every year. This is what Avans wants, but the rooms need to be available. And they are not.

Dutch only
Things are improving when it comes to finding housing for international students, but there continues to be more demand than supply. This applies to Avans cities as well as nationwide. According to the Avans employees, the fact that Dutch students and landlords often prefer not to have international students in their house does not help the housing problem. Advertisements on social media often specify ‘Dutch only’. “It would make such a difference if this was not the case. And undergraduate students are quite eager to learn Dutch”, according to Menke. Menke feels that these advertisements are unfortunate because taking in an international student broadens your horizons. “And Dutch students often forget that they can be confronted with the same problem when they look for a room abroad.” Students on work placement outside Breda wishing to sublet their rooms can do so through the International Office.

Another reason for the problem is that many homeowners would prefer to let their rooms to tenants who stay for several years. This puts international students on exchange programmes at a disadvantage as they will often only be at Avans for six months. “It is more appealing for landlords to have a student in their room for four consecutive years than eight students for six months each. That is far more time-consuming for them”, according to the Avans employees.

When international students finally think they have found a room, they occasionally get swindled. They are so desperate to find a room that they sometimes respond to advertisements that cannot live up to what they promise. Students may be asked to pay the first few months’ rent and a deposit up front, for example, after which they never hear from the landlord again. “Or they pay a fee and then find out that the address doesn’t exist”, says Verburgt. This is why she and her colleagues provide online advice. “If an ad looks like it’s too good to be true, then it is too good to be true. Never sign anything until you’ve seen a room and contract. But students often end up paying anyway, especially when time is running out.”

We ask anyone who has been swindled to report this to the International Office. You can do this by sending an email to internationaloffice@avans.nl.

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