The municipality hopes to prevent countless homeless internationals this autumn by temporarily housing them with renters.
Last year, ad-hoc student organisation Shelter Our Students (SOS) had to start a couch-surfing campaign in August, but this year, the municipality has specifically chartered an organisation to help out in Groningen: Hospi Housing.
This is a platform that connects people who have a room to let in their house with students in need of housing. The organisation was founded in 2019 in Utrecht, where it’s now housing approximately one hundred students at a time.
‘It’s difficult to estimate how quickly we’ll reach that same number in a new city’, says co-founder Daan Donkers. ‘But we hope to reach one hundred matches in Groningen within two years.’
Whether they’ll succeed remains to be seen: until now, this type of room letting was prohibited in Groningen. ‘Groningen is unique in that sense’, says Donkers. Elsewhere in the country, there are clear rules, and renting out a room in your own house is permitted. ‘In cities like Utrecht, people don’t need a permit to take in one or two tenants.’
But in Groningen, the municipality had to set up a special room-letting pilot in order to enter into the partnership with Hospi Housing: over the next two years, potential renters will be allowed to rent out a room for no more than six months once every academic year.
‘That means we have the additional challenge of finding new renters every six months’, says Donkers. ‘We’ll have to wait and see how that will turn out.’
Students and renters who are looking to participate in Hospi Housing can sign up on the website, the use of which is free. If the organisation makes a match, students have to pay a matching fee, says Donkers. ‘The fee is 50 percent of the first month’s rent, up to 250 euros.’
Donkers acknowledges it’s a lot of money to spend on finding a room. ‘However, they only pay if we find a match and we screen every renter individually. We make sure the room is up to code, whether the house has all the necessary amenities, and what kind of person the renters are. That way, we make sure we don’t work with any scammers.’
The organisation says the average rent for a room through them is 400 euros. ‘But that depends on the renter, as they determine the actual price’, says Donkers. ‘People can use the rent tribunal’s points systems as a guideline. If the rent deviates from that too much, we’ll add that to the advertisement in an effort to properly inform students.’
In addition to the municipality, the organisation has also partnered with SOS and the Groningen Student Union, using their channels to start the campaign for this type of living situation. ‘We’re also starting a poster campaign soon, but we’ve already received requests for information from fifty students and ten possible renters’, says Donkers. ‘That’s a good start.’