Solution for housing shortage in action plan: tailor-made per city, better forecasts

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Educational institutions, rental organisations and municipalities want to improve their cooperation in order to fight the student housing shortage. Reliable figures, a local approach, and good information are the pillars of the new policy.

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All parties involved – ranging from students to the ministries of Education and Internal Affairs – have signed the new Action Plan Student Housing 2018-2021 last week, in Rotterdam. The plan is to offer a long-term solution to the housing shortage that’s troubling many student cities. In ten years, supply and demand will have to be well-balanced.

The previous action plan ran from 2011 to 2016, and included firm commitments, such as building 16 thousand additional student housing facilities. Not enough, apparently, because in many cities, students are still struggling to find affordable housing.

Reliable figures
This time, the parties are choosing a different approach: specific target figures are conspiciously absent from the plan. Educational institutions, civil servants, students, and housing organisations are now responsible for figuring out how many homes will have to be constructed in each city. The first commitments will have to be sent to the ministries of Education and Internal Affairs by February 2019.

The annual National Student Housing Monitor, which was published last week, plays an important role in deciding the housing needs per city. Additionally, the Ministry of Education will conduct further research on how the influx of students from abroad can be predicted more accurately.

Chances at finding housing
The final cornerstone is providing information: future students need to have a clear image of their chances at finding housing, and to know their rights and obligations, so they won’t fall victim to malicious slum lords easily.

“All involved parties acknowledge that doing nothing is not an option,” says Diederik Brink, director of Kences, the organisation for student housing providers. “We’re already dealing with shortages, and that’s damaging to the image of Dutch higher education.” He has a lot of faith in the plan. “Whereas all parties involved used to figure out solutions for themselves, we’re really in it together now.”

Student union LSVb hopes the commitments will actually amount to something this time, and plans to keep track of the execution of the plan. “All parties are responsible now, and if structural improvements can’t be seen, we’ll ask the government to interfere,” says LSVb administrator John van Harten.

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