By Kira Guehring | May 12, 2021
Cover Illustration: Little Manhattan, an accommodation for UvA’s first year students on Apr 19, 2021. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
Campus Reporter Kira Guehring explores how the demand for student housing has been affected during COVID-19, with many students opting to stay home and study online instead of moving or returning to Amsterdam.
Before COVID-19, it seemed as though a large proportion of people in Amsterdam were either moving, had just moved or were searching for a new place. Unsurprisingly, the housing market was competitive, with students resorting to former prisons and vacation parks as a replacement for the shortage of student housing. With the hunt for accommodation often consisting of viewings alongside 10-plus others who are also desperate to find a room, and additionally having to deal with creepy landlords and lack of registrations, securing a decent place to live in Amsterdam is no easy task.
The First Wave
Last March, many students gave up their inner city apartments due to the prolonged uncertainty of lockdowns and closing borders, with many never returning. Needless to say, this exodus changed the landscape of student housing in Amsterdam.
According to the International Student Housing office, part of the University of Amsterdam’s Student Services, residents of the UvA’s student housing were offered two options to make their lives slightly easier. As a result, a couple hundred students cancelled their contracts to move back home, while the same number of students opted to extend their contracts for another year.
The Second Wave
This academic year started with a lower housing demand than usual. However, the rooms were still filled, as stated by a representative of the International Student Housing Office. With no exchange students arriving last fall, the rooms were offered to first year BA and MA students instead.
Most people searching for a room in The Netherlands are probably familiar with room.nl, a website where you can register and apply for student housing. There are multiple ways to get a room, from vote-ins by current housemates to priority listings, however the most common way is through wait time. The longer you have been registered on the site, the higher your chances are of being granted a room. In October 2020, to fill the rooms left empty by the pandemic, all students were temporarily eligible for a room on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The Third Wave
Due to strict regulations set by the government, this semester started with no prospect of in-person classes. This has also affected the interest in student housing, to the point where currently there are vacant rooms. For this reason, student housing for the spring semester of 2021 is open to all UvA students.
If you are looking for a room at the moment, you can expect to receive an offer. The current contracts last until this summer, although there may be a possibility to extend until August should the summer schools be cancelled.
The Next Year
For the upcoming academic year the UvA’s International Student Housing office is expecting an influx of new students. This is in line with the university’s general plan to return to face-to-face education during the academic year of 2021-2022.
Many students will be arriving who have either never lived in Amsterdam or left shortly after moving, as many current first year students postponed their move for when in-person education resumes. The decision on whether the new first year students will be prioritized over this group is still pending.
In the past year there have been more cancellations than new interest in student housing, although it is difficult to give an exact number with people regularly coming and going. Will we finally get rid of the competitive market full of scams, bedrooms made of curtains and overpriced rooms filled with mice? One can dream, but no one can predict what will happen with the ongoing rollout of vaccines. At present, the UvA is planning for students to return to campus.
The COVID pandemic has affected all areas of life, especially people’s mobility as well as need to be near loved ones. With a large part of the UvA student body being international, it was to be expected that many decided to leave the country during these unsettling times, leading to contract cancellations as well as ongoing rent payments despite rooms not being physically occupied. All this uncertainty has caused a fluctuation in the housing market, but we are yet to see what the return to on-campus education will do to the housing demand.
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