Pilot for international students on list for SSH rooms

Barbecue residents of the SSH housing complex at the Ina Boudier Bakkerlaan. Foto: Annelies Waterlander

The SSH’s test is a response to requests from the UU and the city of Utrecht to improve the housing situation for international students. With the recent increase in the number of students coming to study in Utrecht, the pressure on the limited number of rooms the SSH reserves for internationals increases as well. Additionally, there’s always a peak in housing shortage of international students at the start of the academic year. This month the university itself announced new measures as well. 

Strategic manager of SSH Roeland Kreeft says the idea of the trial is to have half of the lists of potential housemates they offer housing units consist of international degree students. That means exclusively students who come to Utrecht for entire bachelor’s or master’s programmes and are looking for housing. An estimated 250 rooms will become available during the trial period.

If and when international students manage to snag the regular SSH rooms, there’ll be more availability of ‘short stay rooms’ for exchange students who are only here temporarily, Kreeft hopes: “Right now, regular international degree students often end up in a short stay room, which they have to leave after a year. In that time, they haven’t built up enough waiting time to be able to get a regular SSH room.”

Research done by ISHA, the advocacy organisation for housing for international students, showed last year that SSH tenants aren’t too enthusiastic about sharing their houses with international students. They mostly fear language and cultural differences. Earlier, placing international students in the SSH building at the Cambridgelaan had already led to unrest.

Kreeft says he’s ‘curious’ about the results of the trial period. He says earlier pilots in internationally mixed houses had already had positive experiences with interviewing through Skype. “That works really well.”

Responding to the expected criticism that international students are now given priority over Dutch students who have to built up a long waiting time, Kreeft says: “The SSH has the goal to house UU and HU students. It doesn’t matter to us where the students are from. So there can never be ‘displacement’. We’re seeing right now that international students barely get the chance to rent a regular room. That’s why we’re researching how to improve that.”

Translation: Indra Spronk