Students at the Rikkers-Lubbers house were dismayed to hear the surprising news that their home would soon be stripped of it’s permit to accommodate students. The decision was made after the municipality received official complaints the students were causing a nuisance.
StudentStay, the rental company managing the building, sent an email to tenants to tell them the news: the city’s alderman and internal complaints committee would revoke the housing permit on the basis of ‘nuisance which causes severe problems to the neighbour’s peace and quiet’. StudentStay representative Rixt Hoekstra calls the outcome very ‘disappointing’. StudentStay told students they were concerned about the entire process and the grounds on which the decision had been taken.
But things recently taken a new turn. Hoekstra says that Schove Group, which owns the Rikkers-Lubbers house, plans to appeal the decision in court.
Het Dagblad van het Noorden previously reported on a procedural issue that supposedly led the committee to reach its decision. Because Rikkers-Lubbers house is a former nursing home, the municipality categorises the facility for ‘social service’ and not ‘living’. Different procedural requirements apply for a care centre than for a standard student house.
Yet, StudentStay claims the decision was actually made on completely different grounds – to appease the neighbours. But except for one odd incident during the Christmas break when the police were called while a tenant was enjoying a BBQ in the backyard with his visiting family, residents haven’t heard any complaints from the neighbours for several months in a row. ‘We haven’t even seen our neighbour since November or so’, say international students Calista and Oliver.
The students heard the news first from the local media. The received the explanatory email from StudentStay with disbelief. Residents were informed that the decision would not affect their current situation and they were allowed to stay in their rooms until the end date specified by their contracts. But not everyone is appeased by the consolation. ‘It sucks for those who wanted to extend their contracts for the next year’, explains Oliver.
‘On the other hand, we kind of saw it coming’, residents say, referring to hate comments they have been reading online since they moved in. ‘Good: one student house down, more to go’, Calista reads a recent comment aloud from her phone. She says she still finds sentiments like this surprising; she always thought the Netherlands was an open and tolerant country.
The students feel like the RUG is not doing enough to coordinate with the municipality to protect their home. ‘The university advertises Groningen as a student city, yet we are constantly being ripped off by housing companies or Dutch-only ads while the neighbours celebrate when our house gets shut down. But why doesn’t this happen to the likes of Vindicat or other fraternities?’