Calimero takes on housing problems

Faction members of Lijst Calimero have sent a letter to the board of the university about fixing the ongoing problems with international housing.

Faction members collaborated with the founders of the Experiences from Groningen’s Housing Office Facebook page to compose the letter. They want the board of the university to take a more active role in solving the issues.

According to the letter, international students have to deal with many unique problems, including a shortage of rooms, a lack of information about alternative housing options and delayed reactions from the Housing Office.

Only getting worse

Since there are more international students than rooms available, they often have to try to find a place to live in the private rental market on their own. However, university-provided information for incoming students only refers to the Housing Office and no other options, leaving students to their own devices in an unfamiliar market.

Lijst Calimero’s faction only sees the problems getting worse. ‘The number of rooms available will only decrease in the short term since some of the buildings offering accommodation will be renovated and others, like the Diaconessenhuis, will even be closed’, the letter reads. Diaconnessenhuis will be closing in 2016, and the fate of the other houses will be determined in the coming year.

The shortage of rooms is compounded by students enrolled in RUG summer school classes staying in the rooms through August. This keeps students from moving in for the fall term until September. Faction members propose that rooms should be made available from mid-August onward. Then, incoming students can take part in introduction activities during the KEI week.

‘Absolutely unacceptable’

Another issue is the lack of a timely response from the Housing Office to reports of problems, such as broken furniture or unclean shared facilities. Students feel that if they do contact the Housing Office, their concerns are not addressed quickly enough. ‘There are many examples of students that are left without heating, Internet or water for a couple of days. This is absolutely unacceptable.’

The root of all of these problems, according to the letter, is the legal status of international students due to their housing contract. Housing Office contracts are short stay, which is a temporary accommodation of up to one year (except for certain PhD candidates) and guarantees accommodation ‘in comparison with the rental of a hotel room’. The contract also states that the tenant has no claim to alternative accommodation.

No comments yet

Calimero has been invited to a meeting with Bart-Jan van der Sleen, student assessor for the board of the university, and SSH. A date has not yet been determined. University spokesperson Gernant Deekens says that the Board wants to respond first directly to Calimero during the University council meeting next week before commenting further.

SSH has not yet publicly commented on the contents of the letter.

EDIT: Maurice Both, communications advisor for SSH, says, ‘It is a letter addressed to the Executive Board of the University of Groningen. As we are a collaborative partner, we find it unnecessary to reply to this letter. The Executive Board will represent SSH where necessary in its response.’