Housing Office: Slumlord of the Year?
On Tuesday, the party members visited the Plutolaan, one of several international student houses rented through the Housing Office near Zernike. ROOD spokesperson Siewert Olthof says that decision was due in large part to the many complaints on the Experiences from Groningen’s Housing Office Facebook page.
‘We wanted to go there ourselves and see exactly what was going on’, Siewert says. The Housing Office is responsible for housing for international students studying at the RUG and the Hanzehogeschool. They currently operate around fifteen properties across the city, most on the outskirts.
Students can live in the rooms for up to one year, but they are often smaller, more expensive and worse maintained than Dutch student rooms in private homes. ‘These students often don’t have the choice to live somewhere else, and the landlords regularly take advantage of that. It’s scandalous to treat tenants like this.’
The Plutolaan is a shared facility with a retirement home on the ground floor and houses 69 international tenants on the upper floors. Siewert says that ROOD plans to visit as many of the Housing Office properties as possible to gather evidence against the potential nominee.
SSH communications advisor Maurice Both wants instead to focus on the future. ‘SSH took over the Housing Office on 1 January in the interest of improving quality of housing. One component of our future plan is to create new housing. We will work collaboratively to determine which existing locations do not meet the desired quality standards. The first step toward quality improvement will be the realization of 450 new student rooms in the second phase of construction of De Trefkoel in the Paddepoel neighborhood.’
Siewart says that ROOD does not want to wait around for that. ‘It’s true that SSH has just taken over from De Huismeesters, but these problems have existed for a long time and changes need to be made. We don’t want to wait another year before nominating them, things are already bad enough’, Siewert says.
In 2014, Groningen landlord Jan Lubbers was named Slumlord of the Year for offenses including downplaying a carbon monoxide leak in one of his properties.