It is no secret that finding a suitable place to live in Amsterdam, specifically for students, can be a real challenge. In almost all cases, the house search will be stressful, and many first-years find themselves unable to navigate this famous market.

For us at 020, housing is a fundamental pillar of our programme. We are going to do this in two steps: firstly, we are going to present and explain the problem based on collected data, based on research carried out in the city. This means that the focus will be on the issue itself rather than explaining all the procedures and important information for the housing process. For that, you can give a thorough look at the Housing Booklet already available on the 020 website.

Secondly, we will provide some ideas and specific policies that could be implemented to alleviate the issue. We are aware that it is rather unlikely it will be “fixed” anytime soon. Most importantly, our focus will be on the role the UvA can play in this matter, and whether they could do something more to help new students.

A hands-on approach to improving the UVA

What will 020 change to better the housing situation in Amsterdam?

1

Updated Housing Information

2

Student Housing Platform Initiative

Updated Housing Information

The Problem

020  first wants to focus on the lack of updated information and data available to students by the university. In researching the number of available rooms for students along with data surrounding the housing shortage, we found the latest information is from 2018. As students already struggle with finding housing, we find it important to advocate for updated statistics related to housing to further provide for UvA students, but also for offering solutions based on updated details regarding the housing situation.

The Solution

“For 2018, the UvA has a total of 2,850 rooms in its ‘portfolio’ for international students plus the temporary rooms in the Student Hotel (90), the Bijlmerbajes prison complex (122) and Droompark Spaarnwoude (100), for a total of 3,162 places. We are working hard to expand that number to meet the growing demand.” –Student housing fact sheet, latest data from the UvA. The International Student Housing Office could help us support this policy and could give us more information regarding the fact sheet production. They would be the most fitting sponsor to mediate between our proposal and the UvA which would implement this through annually updating their website to include relevant and up-to-date data.


Policy proposal 1.2: Extended timeline

New (international) students do not have enough time to look for Amsterdam’s place and encounter major difficulties.

 

Updated statistics of the housing crisis would also benefit the current UvA housing offered to many first-year students. There are not enough affordable rooms for all of them, as stated by the university itself. The last available data on this issue date back to 2018: a shortage of 11,000 places in student homes. They provide approximately 2,500 student rooms barely enough for half of all incoming students.

 

This is why many students will have to try searching in the private market, which is no easy task. The competition to get a room or a flat in Amsterdam is fierce as it is usually on a “first come, first served” basis: if you hesitate or wait too long to agree on something, the next person will take it. This leads to many students taking the first offer they receive in fear of not getting anything at all. 

Problem statement

For instance, from the beginning, the university warns that they will not be able to accommodate everyone. However, they only let students know if they have or have not received a room barely three weeks before classes start. In some cases, the university sends a confirmation of enrollment late in August, leading to the same result. It is also true that they advise to always look for a backup plan. However, we believe that this does not make much sense because as mentioned previously, the housing market moves quickly. This means that you cannot look for something on the private market and then keep it on hold to wait for their response. You either take it or not, as landlords do not wait for anyone and there is always someone else ready to take it. 

 

To show the seriousness of this familiar dynamic, we interviewed a second-year Psychology student at the UvA, Anna Musso, who experienced many of the difficulties mentioned above in her search for a place in Amsterdam. She stated that her main problem was caused by her confirmation of enrollment being sent on August 28th. Even if not related to UvA housing, this led her to accept the first seemingly good offer she could find due to the previously explained market dynamic. However, her landlord caused significant stress while continually trying to detract money from her deposit. She discussed many other issues with us, confirming that there are multiple lawsuits against her ex-landlord as of now. This links to our next policy proposal, in which we argue for a function by which landlords can be scrutinised carefully.

Interested in the way 020 will implement these housing policies and what the costs of that will be? Reach out to our Policy and Research Team!

Policy and Solution

Solution

While understanding that there could always be similar risks, Anna was advocating for the following solution. There are many organisations, such as Woon that provide legal help and advice for students for free.

However, the UvA could advertise them because many first-years (including Anna) were unaware of their existence. Her testimonial showed us how every day these situations are, and the worrying extent to which they affect a student’s mental health, often even the ability to study.

We advocate that the university be more aware of this dynamic, understanding that the University of Amsterdam cannot fully prepare students within such a short amount of time, which leads to inadequate study spaces, and extra stress.

To improve the situation, we believe that the university could implement a more extended timeline. For example, informing students more than three weeks in advance on whether they received a room through UvA housing and sending a confirmation of enrollment with more than a few weeks notice so that students have more time to search on the private market with considerably less stress and pressure.

Implementation of the policy

The potential implementation and maintenance of this policy is the University of Amsterdam’s direct responsibility. We are aware that this issue has been present for years, and is challenging. At the same time, we believe this policy proposal has offered a sufficient basis of evidence by which it can be understood how students—particularly new students—are negatively affected. A few suggestions are already given, but open discussion is always needed to grasp how this can be improved wholly.

 

Costs

We understand that extending the timeline would represent not just a tremendous monetary cost, but a bureaucratic challenge for the UvA. It would require extensive re-organisation and probably a different managerial approach.

 

Timeline and Review

Given the bureaucratic challenge that the policy represents, we are aware that change cannot come overnight. The UvA would require ample time to start implementing it, so we expect even a few years before the actual change comes along. However, we believe in showing the essential consequences of the issue on students’ lives and mental health. Therefore, initial discussions on possible solutions should be considered a fundamental first step. 

 

The solutions that we proposed are not guaranteed to fix the problem completely. The UvA would need to evaluate whether the new policy works well given the Amsterdam market situation. Therefore, recurring evaluation forms aimed mainly at first-years would provide valuable feedback. 

Interested in the way 020 will implement these housing policies and what the costs of that will be? Reach out to our Policy and Research Team!

Student Housing Platform Initiative

Problem statement

To increase the credibility of this proposal, we researched to determine whether a policy proposal such as our own could be found at other universities. In doing so, we found universities use platforms for advertising off-campus housing and acts as a third party.

Actual problem

For example, Yale University uses a forum which requires student/staff login information to access and provides housing offers advertised by local landlords for off-campus housing. These landlords are approved by the university, acting as a middle man between the landlords and students. This is done using a “Landlord Rating System” provided by the university. The Dutch Student Union (LSVb) has a platform in collaboration with ESN to offer international students assistance in finding accommodation. This platform allows students to ask and find support in finding housing, answering questions and solving disputes on legal levels. In reviewing the data and conclusions produced by LSVb, the findings have shown the need for a platform. While this platform is available for all students in the Netherlands, we need to emphasise the necessity of introducing our different proposed venue.

Besides, we received a testimonial from students at the UvA in different departments to display the need for a policy. Anna Musso, a second-year Psychology student, participated in an interview to discuss her previous situation with her ex-landlord. We found more evidence to provide credibility for our proposal about the illegal activities and scamming done by the landlord. In her interview, Anna states “I have found something now, but it’s difficult… I spent months and months trying to find something” when referring to searching for housing before entering her second year. Therefore, it illustrates the necessity for a platform where all students can have a safe place to find accommodation.

Policy and solution

Solution

We propose to create a platform in which accommodations can be advertised and swapped or subleased. This platform would be explicitly provided for students at the university. It would allow them to share information regarding empty rooms, leasing, subletting, or flats to share with fellow students. This would enable students to an area free from scams. It could offer a better platform to find housing rather than sign up for several.

 

After paying registration and housing fees that come with these websites, students may not even receive housing from these platforms. Also, students have to sift through websites that each require specific fees just to write on a waiting list. This can be quite confusing, as well as frustrating and unaffordable.

 

We want to advocate for UvA to sponsor a website in which students can share housing information.

Implementation of the policy

In proposing this policy, we aim to outline detail as much detail as possible. This website would allow students to post listings and respond and personally message each other to exchange more information. The UvA could sponsor the website for students to access this platform. The website could use login details about student ID numbers and school passwords of UvA’s system. Using this type of system would allow for the assurance that only students would access the portal and efficiency in setting up login details and the overall platform.

 

 

Costs

We understand that extending the timeline would represent not just a tremendous monetary cost, but a bureaucratic challenge for the UvA. It would require extensive re-organisation and probably a different managerial approach.

 

Timeline and Review

Given the bureaucratic challenge that the policy represents, we are aware that change cannot come overnight. The UvA would require ample time to start implementing it, so we expect even a few years before the actual change comes along. However, we believe in showing the essential consequences of the issue on students’ lives and mental health. Therefore, initial discussions on possible solutions should be considered a fundamental first step. 

 

The solutions that we proposed are not guaranteed to fix the problem completely. The UvA would need to evaluate whether the new policy works well given the Amsterdam market situation. Therefore, recurring evaluation forms aimed mainly at first-years would provide valuable feedback. 

Interested in the way 020 will implement these housing policies and what the costs of that will be? Reach out to our Policy and Research Team!