Sugar Homes: a good place to start, but not worth another 200 euros

The students living in the Sugar Homes complex won’t, and in fact can’t, pay an increase of 200 euros for their container studios. But apart from the hassle with the price increase, they think it’s a pretty cool place to live. 

True, on a grey and rainy Tuesday afternoon, the Sugar Homes, student housing located next to the ring road at the former SuikerUnie location don’t look like much. Red shipping containers stacked on top of each other, connected with a series of metal stairs and walkways. In the courtyard, dozens of sloppily parked bikes are the only sign of life. Looking around, it feels more like an open-air prison.

It’s not surprising that the students balked at the 200-euro price increase owner STHO CV suddenly implemented two weeks ago. Officially, it’s due to an increase in the advance residents pay for their utility bill. But most students signed a one-year contract in August or September, which clearly states that the rent is 560 euros a month, 80 of which go to utilities.

No permission 

‘I immediately knew something was up’, says first-year law student Carmen (18) from Finland. ‘I went over the contract to see if it said anywhere that they could amend the conditions after it had been signed. But it didn’t.’ She’s one of the students who sought legal help to make sure she was right. ‘So far, I’ve been told I am. They can only change the rent if we agree. And we don’t.’

They can only change the rent if we agree, And we don’t

The residents say the containers aren’t worth a rental price of 760 euros. ‘When I first arrived in September, I was disappointed’, says Greek student Manos (18). He’s a first-year student of computing sciences and regularly travels to the Zernike campus for classes. ‘Once here, I realised the containers were really far away from not only the city centre, but Zernike as well. The website didn’t make that clear. I also only found out that studios are former shipping containers when I got here.’

The website also claims the Sugar Homes have a view of the canal. And sure, one specific block actually does. Most of them, however, look out on a construction site or the ring road. ‘They look like I expected them to on the inside, but I couldn’t tell from the website that they were located in an industrial area like this.’


The website also didn’t tell the students how cold the containers get in winter. Manos is lucky, he says, because he lives in one of the few units that stay fairly warm. Then there’s the light. The studios hardly catch any, unless you live in one of the few looking out on the water. And on at least the third floor. 

‘Another thing is that the hot water in the shower smells and tastes funny. Sort of sweet’, says first-year biology student Vlaicu (19). ‘Some people are complaining of mould. There are a few other things that aren’t quite in order, but all in all, the living conditions aren’t bad’, says the Romanian student. 

The sudden price increase is insane

The students don’t think the units are worth a price increase of 200 euros but are fine paying the current price. ‘There is a sense of community, I guess’, says master student of international business relations Peter (23). ‘When we got the email informing us of the price increase, I immediately went outside for a smoke and to find out how other people felt about it. Pretty quickly, people were standing around in groups talking to each other.’

Small village

That’s what students appreciate about the place: they all have their own studio apartment with a private kitchen and bathroom. And even though it’s pretty far away from Zernike and the city centre, it’s also kind of like a small village made up of a few hundred students. ‘You get to know people pretty quickly’, says Manos. The current trouble notwithstanding, people also throw parties and love visiting each other. 

That’s exactly what students who’ve just arrived in Groningen need: meeting new people and making friends. ‘It’s a temporary contract’, says Carmen. ‘The idea is to have a place to live for the first year and to look for something else in the meantime.’ 

She thinks the Sugar Homes are a great place to start from. But the sudden rent increase is insane. ‘We don’t plan on paying the extra costs any time soon. In the meantime, we’re waiting to see how this will end.’

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