Five years ago, only 48 percent of Dutch students had yet to leave the nest. Now, that share has increased to 55 percent according to the Student Housing Monitor recently published by Kences, the umbrella organisation for student housing associations in the Netherlands.
There are several explanations for this. In 11 of the 21 cities with a university or university of applied sciences, the housing market is ‘very tight’. That means that it’s not always easy for students to find affordable housing. Nationwide, there is a shortage of 22,000 student homes.
In addition, new students who enrolled after 2015 are no longer able to benefit from the basic student grant. With a lower monthly budget, they now face a dilemma: should they take on larger amounts of debt in order to pay the rent?
At the same time, the total number of students enrolled in Dutch higher education has also grown. This growth is especially noticeable among international students, who all need somewhere to live while they’re here.
There’s an enormous difference between students at universities (WO) and universities of applied sciences (HBO). Nearly half (48 percent) of Dutch WO Bachelor’s students live on their own, compared to only 29 percent of their HBO peers.
For context, it should be noted that students are now thought to be less likely to report a change of address to their municipality than before the introduction of the student loan system. After all, whether or not you still live at home no longer matters for your student financing: you will have to loan the entire amount yourself regardless.
According to the Monitor, today’s students prefer independent studio apartments over rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom. This has to do with rent subsidy, which students only qualify for if they live independently.
The Dutch Student Union is unhappy with this and wants all students to be eligible for rent subsidy, even if they live in shared housing. Rent subsidy should depend on your income rather than housing type, the union argues. This would also remove a ‘perverse incentive’ from the system: housing corporations now like to build expensive studios, because they know that students will receive rent subsidy for these apartments.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the housing market since the spring, according to the Monitor. Students are making different housing choices, because they know that their income can suddenly dry up, and because they don’t have to be physically present as often to attend their classes. In addition, many international students returned home at the beginning of the first lockdown, back in March. Dutch students will not be able to study abroad or take a gap year to travel either, which also has an effect on the housing market.
Nobody knows what will happen in the years ahead, but Kences foresees two possible scenarios. In the first scenario, the consequences of the pandemic are mild and the crisis mainly affects the current student cohort. In the second, ‘impactful’ scenario, the pandemic causes structural changes. Education would become more digitised, and fewer students would choose to move out on their own.