Science - June 17, 2004

Wageningen student rooms some of the most expensive outside big towns

When the rents go up on 1 July SSHW will be the most expensive student accommodation office outside the ‘randstad’ urban area in the west of Holland, and Groningen.

The Social Housing Foundation Wageningen (SSHW) has earned this position by bringing all its rents in line with the eighty percent level of what is referred to as the ‘maximum reasonable rent rate’. In reality this means a rent rise of up to ten percent for 3,800 of the 4,500 student rooms in Wageningen.

A survey of rent prices in eleven university towns in the Netherlands indicates that the average rent rates outside the urban agglomeration in the west, which includes Amsterdam, Utrecht, Leiden and Delft, are ten to fifteen percent lower than the Wageningen rents. Groningen is the only place more expensive than Wageningen, where rents are five to ten percent higher. “I know we are not the cheapest, but we are certainly not the most expensive,” comments SSHW vice-director Jan Harkema. “Unlike many of the other accommodation offices, we have rooms available quickly on request, especially since we introduced the priority rule for students from further away.”

On hearing that Woningcorporatie Stadswonen in Rotterdam guarantees a room for first-year students, and at only 65 percent of the maximum rent rate, Harkema is surprised: “I wouldn’t have expected that. When we were in Rotterdam we were shocked at how high the rents were there.”

SSHW wants to raise its rents because it needs money to build new student accommodation complexes. The tenants’ association, Stichting Flat Overleg (SFO), has held two protest actions against the planned rises. SFO is angry because SSHW has not explored other alternatives sufficiently, such as receiving assistance from housing corporations in other parts of the country. According to Harkema, however, this option is not as simple as it sounds. “The other corporations are not so willing to build student accommodation in towns they are unfamiliar with.” SSHW says it intends to closely monitor the growth predictions for the Wageningen University student population. If fewer students come than predicted then rents may go down.

The most expensive cities for renting a room are Delft, Leiden, Utrecht and Amsterdam, where the average rent is about 85 percent of the national maximum rent rate. For rooms in the centre of these towns, rents are often rented for the full hundred percent rate. Rotterdam and Tilburg have the cheapest student accommodation, at around 65 percent of the maximum rate. Nijmegen has just finished adjusting its rates, which are now said to be lower than the rents in Wageningen. According to Harkema, the Nijmegen accommodation office, SSHN, is planning on raising the rent prices, but SSHN denies this.

Karin Smeets of the Utrecht student accommodation office was surprised to hear of the student protests in Wageningen. “We also raised our rent prices to pay for new accommodation, and the tenants’ organisation was in favour of this.” Harkema is not troubled by his active tenants: “It keeps us on our toes.”

Guido van Hofwegen

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