One year with SSH
Part one: how it works
As of January, the Utrecht-based student housing company SSH has officially been providing housing for international students at the RUG and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences for a year.
Students can only live in SSH’s housing for up to 12 months at most, with exceptions for PhD candidates and University College Groningen students.
Even though UCG students live in the new and well-received Frascati house, not all of them are happy being forced by their academic programme to live in SSH facilities.
There are far more international degree students at the RUG nowadays than exchange students. Less than one-quarter of all non-Dutch students at the RUG are here on a truly short-term basis nowadays.
The iron-clad nature of the SSH short stay contract is at the request of the RUG and the Hanze, since the universities have to pay for unoccupied rooms.
The maligned Diaconessenhouse will close in June 2016, and Van Houtenlaan may close as soon as 2017.
De Trefkoel will be added to SSH’s portfolio eventually, but not soon enough to avoid a shortage of rooms next school year. Construction on De Trefkoel was halted last spring due to a mandate to make new building projects in Groningen earthquake-ready.
SSH and their representatives at the university suggest that problems in the houses such as broken appliances or malfunctioning equipment may take longer to fix because students don’t report the problems via the proper channels.
In a survey conducted by the UK, many SSH residents said they were dissatisfied with how unresponsive SSH is to their problems and to how much they are paying in rent. However, most students are happiest with the social atmosphere in the houses.
The term ‘international housing’ gets thrown around a lot, but it doesn’t really give much insight into what that actually means. The houses, the nationalities, the ages and the expectations vary radically, as do the experiences of all the people living in them.
It could be a student who is grateful to have electricity at all times, safe tap water and the assurance that repairs can be addressed within five days. It could be a student with high expectations for customer service who is stunned by the bureaucracy of repairs taking five days.
It could be a student who expects that the live-in Residence Assistants are their servants, catering to their every need. It could even be a Dutch student who would prefer to live independently but whose academic programme requires them to live in international housing.
It could be an 18-year-old exchange student living away from home for the first time who would rather hit every bar in town than clean up after themselves. It could be a degree student who finds it confounding to settle into intentionally short stay housing. It could be a PhD candidate who has their own apartment or, due to insufficient dedicated housing, is forced to share quarters with much younger housemates.
It could mean a student attending a two-week-long summer school class who treats their room like a rock star staying in a penthouse suite.
How does booking a room with SSH work? After a student (or PhD candidate or post doc) is notified that he or she has been accepted to study at one of the faculties of the University of Groningen (or the Hanze University of Applied Sciences), the next step is to go to SSH’s website. There, they have to register in order to book a room and provide proof of their enrolment.
In addition to a non-refundable down payment of their first and final month’s rent – which is common practice in the Netherlands for rentals – the future SSH tenants also have to pay a reservation fee of 275 euros. Altogether, that can easily add up to more than 1,000 euros. According to SSH’s Groningen manager, Jolien Stokroos, the reservation fee goes toward the work done in the office for each reservation, as well as system administration and website costs. The time the RAs have to spend coordinating the reservations is also calculated into the fee.
In the UK’s survey (see part four) many students objected to paying what they considered such a steep fee. Stokroos insists that action will be taken on that soon: on 10 March, SSH will be meeting with representatives of the RUG and the Hanze to discuss ways to lower the cost. ‘We want to be able to bring the price down before the beginning of the 2016 academic year’, she says.
But before the student can register, one of several contact people for SSH at the RUG, either at the faculty level or more centrally, has to confirm the student is enrolled (which can take weeks during the summer and winter vacations when university staff isn’t around) and approve of the request. Once SSH receives that approval, then the student can view the floor plans and reserve one of the available rooms on their website, dependent upon whether they are an exchange student, bachelor/master student, PhD candidate or otherwise.
For everyone, living in dedicated international student housing in Groningen means having a bedroom furnished with nuts and bolts items, like a bed, a desk, a chair and a wardrobe. That is what comes with the term ‘reserved accommodation’, which is what all of SSH’s 1,706 current rooms in the city are.
That could mean having your own private shower and toilet, like it does in the Martini house, which was a hotel in a past life. It could also mean having a private studio apartment, as it does at Hoendiep, which is reserved for bursary PhD candidates.
It might mean having a furnished living room, a spacious kitchen and shared showers and toilets, but it could also mean sharing a bedroom. It could mean living in a charming brick building near the Noorderplantsoen, but it’s more likely to mean living in a former hospital that wouldn’t be out of place as the set of a horror movie.
Depending on where it lies on the quality spectrum, it could all even seem charming and adventurous, as if you were living at a summer camp. Having to carry your own toilet paper to the bathroom completes that image quite nicely in some houses. It also means that, in addition to the classes they’re enrolled in, international students are forced to learn all about the – at times confusing – Dutch housing system.
In Groningen specifically, what living in a SSH building – which the company rents out to students on behalf of housing companies such as Lefier, Nijestee and De Huismeesters – really means is that residents have to agree to a ‘short stay’ contract. The duration of the rental contract for a resident in SSH housing is based upon how long he or she will be studying at the RUG or the Hanze, per request of both universities.
Other than PhD candidates and students of the University College Groningen, students cannot live in SSH housing for more than 12 months at most, but they also cannot end their lease prior to the agreed-upon date. Unless the student or a first degree family member of theirs falls ill or is injured so badly that the student needs to drop out of the university – or if they die – the students are held to the contract to the very end.
The strict nature of the lease is by design: in the event that a room in the student houses is empty, the RUG or Hanze are on the hook to pay for it. In order to avoid that, the lease is relatively iron clad, ensuring that students will be paying for the duration of their agreed-upon stay.
That also gives more incentive for the university to organise summer schools: since the majority of SSH’s tenants move away by the end of June, the company’s buildings go unoccupied – and therefore unpaid for – in July and August.
In the words of one Dutch respondent to the survey, ‘SSH is like living in a hotel: impersonal and no atmosphere’. Some students report feeling taken advantage of by this approach, but the entire business model of SSH in Groningen is explicitly based on that of a hotel. The contract for properties in Groningen is short stay, which is akin to the standards of service (and the rights of the guests) of hotels in the Netherlands. That includes the reserved accommodation status, which means the rooms are furnished and cleaning services regularly tidy up the common spaces but stops short of room service.
Anky Kloosterman, known as the rental law instructor by her colleagues in the law faculty, says that there are some differing opinions about it, but the general consensus is that this is a perfectly legal practice.
‘The legal meaning of these kinds of contracts can’t be explained or understood very easily’, she writes in an email painstakingly describing what short stay means. ‘In the Netherlands, the general rule is that tenants enjoy rental protection. However, that is not the case if the rental relates to ‘the use of a living space that is of short duration in nature’. That is according to article 7:232 clause 2 of Dutch civil law.
Kloosterman says that temporary rentals for international students, whether they are labelled ‘short stay’ or not, can fall under article 7:232. ‘That doesn’t mean that a renter can kick out a tenant after a certain point, but it does mean that the tenant cannot cancel the contract in the meantime.’ In that case, rental protection of the tenants is not in effect, but that is allowed under the law.
Providing fewer than 2,000 rooms that are only short stay is becoming an ill fit for an increasingly international student body in Groningen. A little more than ten years ago – back in 2004 – there were many more exchange students at the RUG than international degree students. Just about 400 students were studying abroad in Groningen then, and there were only 116 regular international students.
Since then, a seismic shift has occurred: as of December 2015, there were 893 exchange students at the RUG, and more than 4,000 regular degree students in total. Less than one-quarter of all non-Dutch students at the RUG are here on a truly short-term basis nowadays.
Not every international student ends up in dedicated housing from SSH, though: only 22.5 per cent, actually. In particular, many German degree students bypass SSH and head straight to the private market. But there are hundreds of degree students who rent from SSH at first, only to eventually move on to other housing in the city.
The tightly regulated terms and conditions mean they cannot move out before the lease is up. And even though the terms and conditions technically permit students to move into another SSH house among the 16 properties – if they pay a fee of up to 225 euros – a move is unlikely to be approved unless the student can provide sufficient reason (think: medical necessity) due to the hassle involved for the Residence Assistants (RAs).
Part two: expectations versus reality
While the universities and SSH may be meeting the minimum standards of service, students from cultures with different ideas of what hospitality means may be taken aback by what they find here.
Just more than half of the respondents to the UK’s survey reported that universities in their home country provide housing for students, which may mean that they also expect the same in Groningen. Jan Wolthuis, who is one of several contact people within the RUG on behalf of SSH, explains that once upon a time, that was also the case here.
‘When the universities of the Netherlands were undergoing the most growth, they all had a student housing organisation of some kind. But in the ‘80s, it was established that providing housing is not the responsibility of the university. It has to be provided via the housing corporations’, he says.
He understands that students from abroad may expect otherwise, though. ‘In terms of image, it does impact us’, he says. ‘We have worked for a long time with properties that are second-hand, or even third- or fourth-hand before they became destinations for housing international students.’ In that sense, renting out rooms in places like the Diaconessenhouse, Kornoeljestraat, and Van Houtenlaan could have an effect on how happy students are with their entire study experience in Groningen.
SOG’s international representative Jonah Thompson is also concerned about that strategy. ‘International students who come to this university from abroad have the right to good, welcoming accommodation, especially considering the high prices they have to pay’, Thompson said during a University Council meeting in December. ‘The university has a duty to ensure such services for internationals and it is essential for maintaining the RUG’s standard as a quality university and its reputation around the world.’
SSH’s Groningen manager Jolien Stokroos – a RUG alumnus herself – is acutely aware that students’ expectations can set the tone for their stay in Groningen. That’s much of the reason why Diaconessenhouse will be taken off the market in June and demolished soon thereafter, she says.
The company’s impressive local headquarters are on the Sint Janstraat – in a building just behind the Martini church – where, during a visit in early January, half a dozen employees focus intently on their computers as fluffy snowflakes drift by outside.
SSH, which stands for Stichting Studenten Huisvesting (Student Housing Foundation), rents exclusively to students, as opposed to other housing companies who cater to non-student clients as well. Across the Netherlands, SSH has around 19,000 rooms available for rent, primarily in Utrecht with others clustered in the biggest student cities in the country. Elsewhere, they commonly work with Dutch students in addition to internationals, and also provide unfurnished ‘regular’ rooms and studio apartments. Stokroos says that SSH is open to offering regular rooms in Groningen in the future, too.
Even though there’s a different company name on the door, most of SSH’s current employees in Groningen were also staff of the Housing Office, the group who ran international housing through 2014. Along with their staff, SSH also took over the existing rental contracts from the Housing Office.
Stokroos became the manager here in September. In one of the side offices whose walls are decorated with quirky pop culture portraits and quotes, Stokroos is joined by Annemiek van Vondel, one of the company’s communications advisors, on an iPad.
After getting the tablet propped up on a conference table, Van Vondel explains from her office in Utrecht that SSH does not own properties outright, nor do they commission new construction projects in Groningen. That means that they have to partner with other housing companies to rent out existing properties or get in on the ground floor for up-and-coming buildings.
SSH is doing both in Groningen: they’re urgently searching for suitable buildings in the city since Diaconessen will be closing in a matter of months, potentially to be followed by Van Houtenlaan as early as 2017. It’s looking likely that they will rent a number of hotel boats for at least the beginning of the 2016 academic year as a short-term solution.
The company has been responsible for providing housing for some bursary PhD candidates thus far as well (although that may change under the new plans for a pilot meant to start in the fall) and they have been seeking more places to house them, too.
The company was hoping De Trefkoel, a massive construction project by Nijestee nearby Zernike where SSH will also rent rooms, would be nearing completion by now, too. But work on the building, which will have a mix of 445 rooms and studios, was set aside last spring to ensure it could withstand earthquakes caused by gas extraction in the province.
Van Vondel says that SSH couldn’t have predicted that delay. ‘We didn’t know that all building projects in Groningen would be postponed, but it just turned out that way. We can’t do anything about that other than just try to cope with it.’
With the delivery of De Trefkoel, Stokroos promises that the quality that SSH has to offer in Groningen will improve dramatically, joining the recent additions of Frascati and Hoendiep. But the earthquake-proofing of the new building does mean that making good on that vow has been delayed. ‘It needs more time, and that’s just beyond our sphere of influence.’
One thing that SSH can influence is how much students pay for their rooms. On average, rooms in their houses in Groningen (all categories combined) cost 385 euros, and the average size is 24 meters squared – 16 euros per meter squared. SSH’s prices and room dimensions are actually a considerable improvement over what the Housing Office offered: 388 euros for 13 meters squared rooms on average (29 euros per square meter).
In fact, they’re also better overall than recent rates for the private market: in 2012 (the most recent available data), most Dutch students in the city were paying 400 euros a month for a 21 meters squared room (19 euros per square meter).
Rent prices at SSH include furnishing the rooms, regular cleaning of common spaces, and set rates for utilities, which can be astronomical for the largest buildings. A management fee is also paid to the housing corporations that own the buildings which SSH rents out.
‘Of course the ideal rental price will always be up for debate’, Stokroos says. ‘The expectations of quality among students from Scandinavian countries is likely to be different from what students from South America or Asia are expecting. But I will say that we’ve gotten nothing but praise about Frascati, so that is a good standard for what students do like.’
Part three: inside the houses
Although nationality made little difference in terms of housing expectations in the UK’s survey, the student residents of the Frascati house – which was converted from office space into student housing in a matter of months – were indeed happier on average than the residents of other houses. Living in a building that is literally next door to the central train station with Aclo gym facilities on site seems to be pretty universally popular.
The Frascati house scored either at or above average in all respects in the survey, but the newest SSH property isn’t without issues. Students living on the top floor report that water pressure is poor, making washing dishes or showering a challenge, and students living on the lower floors report being bothered by the noises coming from the gym location below them.
The original goal for the Frascati building, which was officially opened in December during a ceremony with people rappelling off the roof and confetti cannons, was to fill all 210 rooms with students from the University College Groningen. But since enrollments have remained low there, only a quarter of the rooms form the learning community the students were promised.
The agreement is for UCG students to live at Frascati for two years and then go abroad in their third year, Stokroos says. But it seems that few of the UCG residents, Dutch and non-Dutch alike, are happy with the situation, as revealed by their responses to the UK’s survey.
‘We are still said to have a ‘short stay’ contract FOR TWO YEARS of mandatory living’, one student wrote. ‘The conditions are terrible. We are not allowed to leave personal belongings in our bathrooms; otherwise, the cleaning ladies will take them or throw them away.’
Another UCG student wrote, ‘SSH does not try to create a livable environment, but this is the reason they use to impose numerous rules and regulations. The result is a house where you constantly feel watched and where it’s difficult to feel at home.’ The inability to customize their common spaces is hard to accept for the UCG students in particular. ‘You are basically camping everyday, since it is not allowed to have possessions in the bathrooms and kitchens. Not even a Christmas tree’, another Dutch student complained.
While the Dutch students may be disappointed with their situation, living at Frascati is perhaps the polar opposite of the Diaconessenhouse. A report presented to the university board in December described how ‘it took a while before SSH realised the scale of these problems, but in November, improvement of the standard of living at Diaconessenhouse had become a top priority for SSH.’
‘The underlying problem is that Diaconessenhouse is an old building that serves a last purpose to accommodate international students.’ As such, ‘major improvements now are not worthwhile’ and ‘not every problem will be solved adequately for the remaining period.’
The discovery of a small patch of loosely bound asbestos on 14 October during an inspection by SSH in a utility closet on the ground floor alarmed the students, who were worried that they had been exposed to it for months.
The closet was sealed off for a month until the asbestos could be removed in mid-November, but for dozens of students, it felt like the last straw. They filed a formal complaint listing their grievances: multiple thefts, broken kitchen appliances going unrepaired or unreplaced, poor communication from SSH or lack thereof, noise from the construction site next door and the remote location of the building were getting to them.
However, the report presented to the university board suggests that the issues may have taken longer to be addressed because students didn’t report them the right way. ‘The problems at Diaconessenhouse showed that many students do not know the proper way to issue their complaints. From this, an additional problem arises, namely that complaints are not handled fast and adequately.’
In each of the houses, at least one Residence Assistant – RA – is present. Many RAs are responsible for hundreds of students and, in some cases, multiple properties. The RAs, who are Dutch as a rule, are simultaneously a live-in counsellor, supervisor, security guard and police officer. They are also students themselves, and they combine being on call 24/7 with their studies as well as they can.
That was never truly effortless, but it was at least easier to justify the balancing act up until December when the central office of SSH informed the RAs nationwide that the company would no longer employ them. While they would continue having their room paid for, in January, they went from receiving 350 euros a month to only 900 euros spread across the year with no reduction in responsibilities.
Several RAs, who asked to remain anonymous, say that they truly enjoy the social aspect of getting to know the students, despite the new working conditions making the job less gratifying. Not that it was always a walk in the park: several RAs report being faced with belligerent, intimidating and often drunk visitors when breaking up parties and having to call the cops a handful of times each semester. It’s also not uncommon for the RAs to have students knocking on their doors in the middle of the night or being forced to leave their university lectures to take phone calls from tenants, typically with non-emergency questions.
According to Van Vondel, the current situation for the RAs has changed since December, even though she cannot yet confirm any details because negotiations are still ongoing. Furthermore, Stokroos says nine new RAs have recently been hired in Groningen and ‘a considerable amount’ of the current ones have decided to stay on.
So what is the procedure, then? It depends on the request, Stokroos says, but there are multiple places to go with complaints: there’s a helpline in Hoorn that students can call, or they can notify their RA. There is a dedicated maintenance technician who works at Kornoeljestraat, Winschoterdiep and Van Houtenlaan (which is nearly 800 rooms combined), so repair requests can be submitted to him directly in those houses. The technician can either fix it himself or hire the right person for the task.
Although significant improvements, such as providing insulated glass in windows or upgrading kitchens, aren’t worth doing in light of Diaconessenhouse’s pending closure, repairs to broken equipment in all SSH house should be done within five days of a request being submitted. Alternatively, if a replacement part has to be ordered, the students should at least be informed within five days about what’s happening.
Yet in the UK survey, many students report some repair requests taking weeks if not months to be dealt with. According to several RAs, requests may also end up in the hands of the housing companies who own the buildings. In turn, they are supposed to contact a repairperson, who then has to make an appointment via the RA and then come make the necessary repairs. That process can take weeks, during which the students aren’t always updated. One RA described feeling that complaints originating from the student houses aren’t a top priority for the housing company partners.
‘But no matter what the procedure is to file a complaint, that can never be to the detriment of the students’, Stokroos says firmly. ‘No matter how we have set it up, that is not the students’ concern.’
Stokroos doesn’t deny the conditions at the Diaconessenhouse aren’t great, though. ‘You really have to ask yourself, despite the number of rooms that you need, if you want to continue providing a place like Diaconessen’, she says. ‘I think it may be better to just go ahead and say, ‘No, we don’t want this anymore’, and then to discuss how we can replace those rooms with the RUG and Hanze.’
Until June of this year, students will still be living in the Diaconessenhouse. The two buildings, which house 198 students altogether, are 13 minutes by bike south of the city center and nearly 30 minutes away from the Zernike campus (as are the Martini house and Van Houtenlaan). The building complex, which was formerly used as a hospital and was built during the 1960s, is actually closer to the town of Haren than any university facilities.
Construction equipment parked next door almost feels like vultures waiting for the building’s imminent demise. Even during the day, the long corridors on each floor remain dark, relying on flickering fluorescent bulbs overhead.
In the quiet weeks before the winter vacation, a student sleepily makes coffee in one of the cramped kitchens which only has a couple of burners for a whole corridor of tenants. Karl Zimmermann, a resident of the building and a full time psychology student at the RUG, says that it is against the rules to leave utensils or spices in the kitchens, reportedly because of sightings of cockroaches.
As a degree student, Karl’s main issue is the university’s approval of having international students live this way. The institution collaborates closely with SSH and directs incoming students to go to them for their accommodations, but they could wind up in a place like this by following that advice.
The UK previously spoke with Zimmermann about the letter submitted by the frustrated residents in the fall. But have things changed for the better since then? To Miguel Santin, a master’s student at the RUG in applied linguistics, it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. He is still not entirely satisfied with the house and how things are being handled. ‘I don’t really like it. Things are still broken and it seems like the SSH doesn’t care enough’, he says.
Some much-needed maintenance has been done post-letter: students report that out-of-order appliances have finally been replaced in several kitchens, malfunctioning blinds have been tended to in bedrooms and other problems have been addressed. But despite the efforts, Diaconessenhouse still feels neglected.
In building B, there’s a welcoming committee – a cat is drowsily curled up on a worn leather couch in the lobby. The corridors are largely empty, but in a decidedly more spacious kitchen with lavender-painted walls, Ly Pav, an exchange student from Cambodia, confirms the residents face similar problems here.
He is pretty happy with the people on his floor, but satisfaction varies from one corridor to the next. ‘People on our floor are awfully loud and noisy, and they’re not so friendly’, says Blanca Gomez, a RUG exchange student from Spain living on the ground floor.
There seem to be two camps among the students: degree versus exchange students. The assumption is that exchange students would be more willing to go with the flow and enjoy what little time they have in Groningen. Yet according to the UK’s survey results, exchange students are actually slightly less satisfied with their general accommodations than the degree students.
The other end of the spectrum
On the other end of the housing spectrum are the rooms on the Moesstraat. With the Noorderplantsoen as a virtual back yard and roughly equidistant between Zernike and the city centre, the Moesstraat houses are two of the most centrally located SSH properties. Moesstraat 8 looks like a reformed office built around a clock tower and Moesstraat 16 is a stately brick building from 1927.
Moesstraat 8’s skylight and open stairwell make for a much brighter and friendlier welcome. This building only houses 40 students in total and the kitchens are spacious and tidy, aside from the occasional pile of pizza boxes and bottles of wine overflowing from the recycling bin.
Franziska Schlage, a German exchange student at the RUG in Applied Linguistics, speaks about her experiences while making toast. ‘It’s the nicest student house in the city’, she readily acknowledges. Steven Ramond, an Irish student, wanders into the kitchen and says he is happy with everything, aside from the fact that he was supposed to have a single room but wound up in a shared one.
Further up the road at Moesstraat 16, half a dozen students are gathered over coffee in their common room. ‘Socially, the atmosphere is great and the people are amazing’, says Georgia Tuohy, an Irish psychology student at the RUG. Jesus Alvarez, a Mexican master’s student at the RUG seated across from her, adds that despite what he sees as SSH’s shoddy communication, he is very happy with the house, especially with the other residents. Indeed, the social aspect is the saving grace for many students, strongly influencing how satisfied they are with their housing.
SSH’s first year in Groningen has had high points – the opening of the Hoendiep and Frascati properties – and low points – being confronted with the dissatisfaction of residents at Diaconessenhouse and its RAs no longer being their employees. The challenge of keeping quality, quantity and price in balance remains, and Stokroos and the team in Groningen are dedicated to making sure things get better with time.
‘We are working every single day to improve the process and to make the students as comfortable as possible’, Stokroos says. ‘And the fact that we’re learning something new every day is obvious.’
Part four: survey results
The UK conducted an online survey between 7 December and 8 January of students currently living in SSH housing in Groningen. In total, 147 exchange and degree students at the RUG and the Hanze indicated their level of satisfaction with ten different aspects of their housing experience on a scale of 1 (negative) to 5 (positive).
Although no category received a score of 4 or higher, some of the highest scores included the commuting distance to university facilities: 3.12 was the average score. The commute for most students is around 16 minutes, and 88 per cent of students travel by bike (6 per cent by bus, 5 per cent on foot.) Connected to that, the location of the houses was given an average score of 2.99.
Students scored the safety of their houses at 3.03 on average, and the highest score was reserved for the social atmosphere in the houses: 3.77. Getting along with your housemates can go a long way toward influencing overall satisfaction, and students gave that aspect – accommodations in general – a score of 2.51. The condition of the bedrooms in the houses received a 2.79 score overall.
The aspects that students were least satisfied with included the price of rent: 1.95 was the average score. Stokroos says that asking whether people are satisfied with their rent is more or less a rhetorical question: ‘Almost everyone always thinks their rent is too expensive, and you hear that a lot in the housing world.’ There are different prices depending on room size, house and type of student: typically, PhD candidates pay 331 euros for their rooms, post docs pay 413, and bachelor/master students and exchange students pay 403 euros.
The condition of common spaces – toilets, showers, kitchens and lounges – scored 1.97. All areas aside from bedrooms are tended to regularly by cleaning services, but students are also expected to clean up after themselves on a daily basis. If just one student neglects to do so, the clutter and filth can quickly add up – as can the frustration of the other students.
The low score concerns Stokroos. ‘We want to make sure that we stay on top of things in order to find out what the problems are in the common areas.’
The lowest score was students’ perceptions of how accountable and responsive SSH is: 1.77. ‘That is absolutely something that we have to work on’, Stokroos says. ‘We aim to be more proactive in the future so as to avoid getting so many complaints. We have to get ahead of that.’ Stokroos says there are concrete plans to make matters better: ‘We have set it up now such that students can submit their complaints directly and they can make an appointment with providers.’
When looking at the scores per house, there were also notable differences of opinion. Residents of each of SSH’s 16 properties responded to the survey aside from Stadswerf, and in the houses where 15 tenants or more filled in the survey, the UK looked at their satisfaction levels in comparison to the overall average.
Students living at the newly delivered Frascati (based upon 30 responses) reported higher levels of satisfaction in all regards – including the highest score for location with an average of 4.53 – but the students at Diaconessenhouse (based upon 29 responses) gave lower scores overall.
Martinihouse (18 responses) residents were more satisfied with their accommodations than most, including both the condition of their rooms and their common spaces: given that the kitchens are converted conference rooms, that isn’t so surprising. Their location – across the highway from the GasUnie building – scored below average, but the students were the most enthusiastic about the social atmosphere in the house with a score of 4.38.
Residents of the Winschoterdiep (29 responses) house were also generally positive: above average scores were expectations being met, safety, condition of their bedrooms and location; but social atmosphere, commute, common spaces and rent scored below the average of all SSH residents.
- Your SSH accommodations in general → average: 2.51
- The amount of rent you are paying for your room → average: 1.95
- The condition of your room → average: 2.79
- The distance of your commute from your housing to your classes → average: 3.12
- The condition of common spaces (bathrooms, lounges, kitchens) → average: 1.97
- How safe do you feel in your housing? → average: 3.03
- The social atmosphere in your house (i.e. how well do you get along with the other people in your house?) → average: 3.77
- The accountability and responsiveness of SSH to complaints → average: 1.77
- The location of your house in the city → average: 2.99
- Does your housing meet the expectations that you had before you arrived? → average: 2.21