This week both the university and the city of Groningen welcome thousands of new students into the streets, lecture halls, pubs, nightclubs and beyond. Even with lingering corona restrictions still in place there’s a real buzz about the streets as students are treated to outdoor events. There’s a real sense that the city will soon be in full swing again. It’s exciting to say the least, but it has downsides.
As outdoor festivals and meetups for students begin, we are met with the age-old issue that tortures Groningen and its would-be residents, the housing crisis. With news that the emergency housing at the Martiniplaza is fully booked and with beds The Village almost full, students are left with little options beside from couch-surfing while they seek that elusive bedroom for the year.
I wish I could say this is a sudden issue; that might offer some form of reasonable excuse as to why housing has become such a serious issue here. But neither the university nor the city can claim such plausible deniability. It’s been this way for years with international students particularly exposed to the depth of this housing crisis with only ‘temporary’ and ‘emergency’ solutions offered.
Why is there a lack of real and permanent solutions to this issue forthcoming from the city and the university at large? With the UG planning to grow student numbers in a city already stretched to its limits to accommodate its students, such short-term solutions won’t solve what is obviously a long-term problem.
Back home in Ireland, a similar housing crisis is facing the residents, professionals, and students of Dublin. A recent article discussed solutions to this, with one seemingly ideal proposed by USI (the national Students Union of Ireland). They propose that government provide universities, which are public institutions, with the funds to build their own affordable accommodations for their students.
Of course, this is a great idea. As such it will never happen in Ireland, thanks to a government made up entirely of right-leaning mega-landlords. But here in the Netherlands it seems to me that such a sensible idea would seem exactly the type of sensible use of public funds the public are accustomed to. So why the delay? After all, long-term problems need long-term solutions… right?
Oh well, there’s still plenty to enjoy around here anyways, so keep your head up.
At least until you find a place to put it down.