Science - March 1, 2007

Living together a bigger issue than you’d expect

Housing is an issue for every student in Wageningen, but sharing a room is also important for many. Some share because they want to live together with their boy or girlfriend. Others, often international students, want or have to save money, so they move into a room which is officially only for one person.

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The student accommodation office Idealis offers different kinds of rooms, varying from the rooms on shared corridors in the big apartment blocks to small student-houses with just a few students. It is not common to share a room with another person and it is difficult to find apartments for this purpose. ‘We have only limited options for this at the moment,’ explain Tiffany Fuhler, PR & communication manager, and Jan Harkema, vice-director at Idealis.

There are a few apartments in the Bornsesteeg and Haarweg and some in the old IPO-building at the Binnenhaven where two people are allowed to share a room. ‘But Idealis will be able to offer more opportunities in the future. Two new buildings are being constructed at the moment and in the next few years another two will be built. They will be flexible in their set-up, so that they can be used for people who want to live together.’

When asked about people sharing rooms at the Binnenhaven, Fuhler explains: ‘This building is really only intended to bridge gaps when there are not enough rooms available for international students. But this year, it was full for too long. Next month, we will discuss the situation with Wageningen UR for next study year. Hopefully, better arrangements can be made.’

It is mainly international students who are living two to a room in the Binnenhaven. For Karel and Lenka, both Czech students of economics, this is not a big issue. They share rooms with partners they like. Lenka: ‘If you know the other person it is fine, and if problems occur you try to solve them through a fair and respectful discussion.’ Karel adds: ‘We also only pay 200 euros a month rent, which is quite cheap for Wageningen.’ Both agree that it is a special place to live. ‘We have nice people around. There are 60 people living in this building and it is a bit like a big family,’ Lenka remarks. There are minor irritations. ‘Only one person can be on the internet at once as there is only one connection per room,’ Karel says.

When people share rooms illegally however, it’s a different matter. The ‘normal’ Idealis room is only meant for one person. ‘I’m sorry but the law in the Netherlands is strict,’ Harkema explains. ‘Only one person is permitted to occupy most of our rooms.’

Fuhler elaborates: ‘There have been a number of big fires in recent years in the Netherlands and also in Wageningen. So the government introduced new laws and we are obliged to be strict. We are inspected every year to make sure our rooms comply with the fire regulations. We offer rooms which are recognised as safe, but only if there is no double occupancy.’

There are many couples who share a room at night, and nobody is likely to do anything about this, but there are also international students who share a room, either because they do not want to pay all the rent themselves or because they cannot afford to. One reason is that non-EU students pay much higher tuition fees than European students. These students want to share rooms to give them some extra money. ‘If Idealis discovers that somebody is sharing their the room with another person, we ask the other person to move out and we check again after a while. The worst that can happen is that the renting person also has to leave the room,’ Harkema says regretfully.

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