Homeless internationals leave Groningen: ‘If this city is “Dutch only”, why are we here?’

A week before emergency housing officially closes, students living there are still under stress. Not everyone is able to pay the increased rent, and some even decided to leave Groningen.

According to city spokesperson Manon Hoiting, DJB Vastgoed will take over Martinihouse from SSH as of December 24. The emergency housing location will then be turned into regular student rooms. All current tenants have been offered a new contract.

As it turns out, the rent for the shared rooms will be upped and not all students will be able to stay. ‘Currently, we’re paying around 320 euros per month… for a bed’, says a twenty-two-year-old Hungarian master student of international relations. ‘Starting next week, it will be 450 euros for a bed, which means it will be 900 euros for a room.’

Return

As he has no more courses in the next semester and he can neither find new accommodation nor afford the increased rent at the Martinihouse, the Hungarian student has decided that staying in Groningen is no longer a sensible option. He will return to Hungary and not come back.

Students that UKrant spoke to at the Martinihouse agree that the new prices are too high compared to the lacking quality of the accommodations. Like when the kitchen and common rooms on the first floor were without electricity for two weeks in November. 

Big mice

Even when the electricity does work, the fridge in the common kitchen is not large enough to support a whole floor of students. Students living on the ground floor say they sometimes even find ‘big mice’ in their shared kitchen. 

When I told my classmates about my new contract, they were shocked and asked me if it is even legal

In addition, the lack of privacy and space in the shared bedrooms force students to study in the common areas, but electricity blackouts, noise, and occasional Wi-Fi problems seriously impact their productivity. 

Failed

‘I think most people here failed their exams’, says Obi, a master student of international business management. ‘We don’t have enough rooms for studying, and the idea of being homeless is also stressful. I think many people are not aware of what is happening here’, he says. ‘When I told my classmates about my new contract, they were shocked and asked me if it is even legal.’

Many of the students at Martinihouse have been struggling with finding permanent accommodation elsewhere for months now. Erhan, a Moldavian student of economics and business, feels he is one of the lucky ones. After six months of getting rejections, he and his friend got offered an apartment. 

Girls only

‘Many of those houses are “Dutch only”, or “girls only”, and if you are an international, or a bachelor student instead of a master student, or if you don’t have an income, it will be very hard to even get an invitation’, Erhan says. 

You cannot be ‘Dutch only’ while you label yourself as an international city

The Dutch only’ policy that many students houses adhere too has been a problem for a lot of the internationals at Martinihouse. ‘This should be changed’, says Obi. ‘You cannot be “Dutch only” while you label yourself as an international city. If this city is “Dutch only”, then why are we here?’

Bond

Even though Martinihouse may not be perfect, some students have decided to stay there for now. Like Mwamba, from Zambia. He has lived there since the end of October and stayed at emergency housing The Village before that. ‘They let one hundred people live in the same room during a Covid period, so I’m actually happy to be here now’, he says.

Enduring the same stressful situation has created a bond between students in emergency housing, Mwamba says. ‘What helped me personally is to meet new people every day. We could lean on each other, to cope with problems.’ For him and others, this has become part of the reason to stay where he is.

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