Rooms on the cheap
Housing crisis? What housing crisis?
Groningen has a housing surplus.
Three months ago, you’d be hard pressed to find even a temporary room, much less an affordable, spacious one. These days, though, Kamernet is full of available rooms. Just 240 euros gets you twelve square metres at the Peizerweg. Near the Noorderplantsoen, you only have to cough up 307 euros for fourteen square metres. Both rooms are available immediately.
There are currently four hundred rooms available in the centre of Groningen, in all shapes and sizes. If none of those are to your liking, you can always check out Facebook, where group pages like Kamer in Groningen have more than enough rooms on offer. Supply is great, demand is small, and it’s hard to believe internationals had to sleep in tents at the start of the academic year.
Stichting Studenten Huisvesting (SSH) says 850 international students have already left the short-stay accommodations in the city they fought so hard to get in the first place. The container studios at the former SuikerUnie are also slowly being vacated. Developer Rizoem says that forty international students have cancelled their rooms. Housing corporation Lefier’s numbers are less high. ‘But we’re keeping a close eye on the situation.’
The big rental agencies in Groningen do not appear to be in any trouble just yet. Veldboom Vastgoed has had some cancellations, but all their rooms are rented. The houses in the city centre are popular and don’t become available often. Bulten Vastgoed isn’t experiencing any immediate issues either: ‘Rental agencies with property in less desirable locations are having a tougher time.’
Yet the word ‘tougher’ alone tells us how much the housing market has changed since the start of the corona crisis.
On the couch
‘It’s a great time to look for a room. There’s so much on Facebook and there’s a lot to choose from’, says first-year student of movement sciences Julia Bakker. She’d been wanting to move out of her parents’ house for a while, but she hadn’t been able to find a room in Groningen. She’d been commuting almost two hours from Friesland every day. ‘It became untenable’, she says.
The corona crisis has been an opportunity for me
She sublet a room from a student who’d left for New Zealand for a while, but when she returned early because of the corona crisis, ‘I was back on my parents’ couch’.
But she finally found a place of her own, in a nice house with other girls in the Oosterpoort neighbourhood. ‘The corona crisis has been an opportunity for me. I had so many more rooms to choose from that I could afford to be picky’, says Julia.
She only needed to interview for two rooms before she was invited to her current house. She may not need to commute to uni now that her classes are online, but she intends to move into her room full time soon. ‘Otherwise it’s just a waste of money.’
Angela Estherina has also been lucky. She only registered with Lefier last month, but she’ll probably be able to move into a new room next month.
The situation was entirely different when she moved from Indonesia to Groningen in September. She was forced to move in with a family who had an extra room she could use. But the corona crisis meant she had to move out. ‘I had to make a choice: no more socialising, or finding a new room.’ She picked the latter.
Students currently living in small, dark rooms now also have the opportunity to trade up. Orthopedagogy student Nynke van der Burg moved into her new and improved room last week. ‘I found a studio through Kamernet after just two weeks of looking. I could move in a week later. It all just happened so fast’, she says.
Nynke had been looking for a studio for a while, but it was always so hard to find one. ‘But the corona crisis means I’m home so much that I thought it was a good time to start looking for one.’ She had quite a few rooms to choose from and looked at six studios before picking one. ‘I’m really happy with my room.’
Normally, we’d get 150 responses. Now we only have twenty-six
People looking for a room might be making the most of the situation, but those offering a room are decidedly less happy. Like the students living in Huize Zuyderparck, a villa with twenty-two residents in one of the most beautiful streets of Groningen. A room is opening up in the house soon: 350 euros for sixteen square metres, including service costs. The residents are close; they get together every Tuesday and organise activities throughout the year.
‘Normally, like in August for example, we’d have more than 150 responses to an ad’, says Daan Swets, who lives in the house. ‘But now we only have twenty-six people who are interested.’
Out of hand
They also couldn’t organise a regular interviewing evening. ‘We decided to move the interview into the garden when the weather was nice’, says Daan, who studies business administration. ‘The mood was just so different. Normally, these evenings can get a bit out of hand and we’ll pass a bottle of liquor around. But now we ended up getting cups for everyone.’ Some people who were interested in the room couldn’t even make it to the interview. ‘Either they couldn’t get a train or their parents were at risk. That’s a shame and it left us with even fewer people to pick from.’
Fortunately, Huize Zuyderparck ended up finding a new roommate: a young man who will be starting at the UG in September. ‘He decided to move in already and familiarise himself with the city. Although that’s a bit difficult these days.’
Other student houses opted for online interviews with prospective tenants. ‘We didn’t think it was a good idea to have people over right now. We decided to video call the people we thought might be a good fit’, says psychology student Joost Broek. His house in the Korrewegbuurt will soon have a room available that’s twelve square metres, for 350 euros. ‘It’s so different. During a normal interviewing evening you get to know someone in a group. People’s behaviour is so different then.’
It’s so much harder to find roommates during this time
In two weeks’ time, Joost only got ten responses to the room, when normally, he’d get at least fifty. It’s a big difference and it’s bumming him out: ‘It’s so much harder to find roommates during this time.’
Journalism student Lieuwe van der Schaaf agrees. When he put up an ad for a room in his house near the UMCG, only four people responded. Previously, he’d received seventy. ‘I’ve never had so few responses.’
He also decided to use videoconferencing to pick his new roommate. ‘But it’s kind of uncomfortable, because it’s easy to talk over each other. It’s definitely not ideal.’
He does feel it’s the best option, though. ‘At least we’re able to talk to each other, and you can show people the room. Picking a roommate is always a bit of a guess, since you can never really know what someone’s like.’
He does have to hurry, though, because if he doesn’t present a new roommate to the landlord soon, the latter will pick someone, and they won’t ask for the current residents’ input. ‘That’s never happened before. But with everything going on, it’s a distinct possibility.’