By Vivianne Hericks
— It is safe to say that everyone at AUC knows or knew someone who lived in a shared double room in their first year of university. These shared rooms consist of roughly 28 to 33 square meters and are therefore only slightly bigger than a single room. Despite the size, the students who rent these rooms each pay rent ranging from 300 Euros to 350 Euros per month. Which they question considering the prices for a private room in a double apartment fall in the same price category. The Herring spoke to students living under these circumstances, DUWO, and AUC staff to make the issue more transparent.
The students who end up living in these rooms are usually first year or exchange students. These students have chosen their rooms via the DUWO website, often without further knowledge of what they looked like, as the information of the rooms on the website is sometimes unclear or missing. According to AUC, unless presented with a pressing reason, the students who are unhappy with their housing situation are forced to stay in these rooms until the moving period in the summer break.
Adele Beinaraviciute, first year Social Science major, applied late to AUC and was therefore presented with limited options when it came to choosing her room. Beinaraviciute was hoping to be able to rent a single room, but instead ended up sharing a 28 square meter room with another student. “I was told very clearly that no student would ever have to be forced to live with another, and if they did wish to share a single room, they would each have their own space,“ said Beinaraviciute.
This is a promise which in Beinaraviciute’s eyes has not been fulfilled by AUC. She and her roommate get along well, but variation in character, as well as different study, sleeping and eating habits make living together challenging. Beinaraviciute added that these differences may seem trivial, but in reality add up and have an impact on personal life. “As someone who needs their space and holds their privacy very dearly, it’s been hard to not have anywhere to escape to and be alone, aside from maybe a toilet stall,“ said Beinaraviciute.
When contacting DUWO about moving to a different room, Beinaraviciute found the “lack of cooperation and consideration of this matter very disappointing,’’. Beinaraviciute added that the issue also influenced her studies. “As they become increasingly challenging, I become increasingly stressed out and anxious. Not having my own safe space perpetuates these feelings,“ said Beinaraviciute.
Beinaraviciute is not alone in her struggle, many first years are forced to live under similar conditions this year as housing options are limited due to an increase in admitted applicants at AUC. However, the lack of privacy is not the only issue reported in connection with these rooms. Beinaraviciute and her roommate pay 310 Euros each for 28 square meters. Students living in double apartments with a private room each pay approximately the same amount of money, while the amount of square meters vary from 42 to 55.
Johan Fredsted, second year Humanities major, commented on the rent policy of DUWO. “They are just so inconsistent and should make it easy for everyone by charging a certain price by the square meter.“ When Fredsted was a first year, he lived in one of the shared double rooms as a result of misguidance on the DUWO website. According to Fredsted, information about the different rooms is not enclosed adequately on DUWO’s website, “it doesn’t say ‘shared double room’ or ’room without privacy’“, he said.
When Fredsted heard about students moving out of their rooms he contacted DUWO multiple times to request a room change but received the reply that no other rooms were available. However, his roommate left AUC and moved out and Fredsted ended up living by himself for the rest of the year. Instead of being offered another room, he was given the option to pay 700 Euros per month with the guarantee of having the room for himself, which he declined. “I honestly feel they just don’t want the bureaucratic hassle of having to draft a new contract and find a new person for the shitty room,“ said Fredsted.
By directly contacting the DUWO offices The Herring was hoping to shed some light on the situation. In a conference call with the Amsterdam Branch Manager, Gerrit Dijkstra, The Herring requested justification on the prices of the shared double rooms. Dijkstra explained that this was a “complicated“ matter and that AUC made the decision of having two people live in these type of rooms. Dijkstra explained that the rent of the shared rooms is comparably high due to service costs, such as water and electricity bills, which are calculated per person.
When The Herring added that these service costs also apply to the other double rooms, no further explanation could be given as to why the rent is calculated seemingly independently from the square meter count.
In a later email DUWO’s communication advisor, Marja Weverling, got back to The Herring to further clarify the question of why the rent prices for 33m2 studios and 55m2 apartments hardly differ from the regular double rooms which cost between 314 and 355 Euros.
“After we dug a little deeper it turned out that the rental price for the 55m2 room was entered incorrectly into our system. The price that we charge is too low,’’ said Weverling. She added that DUWO would rectify the mistake. When The Herring followed up about the matter, Weverling replied over email with the following comment:
“We don’t correct the price that is too low immediately to the, higher, correct price. We are going to correct these prices in the future,’’ said Weverling.
The next concern addressed to DUWO was the inadequate information provided on their website, regarding the lack of information on details of the rooms for rent – an issue they were “surprised to hear about“. To this question Weverling replied that “when a student is able to reserve a room online via My DUWO they can consult the floor plan of the room’’. According to Weverling, the advertisement also specifies how many people can move into the room.
In an extensive email to The Herring, Weverling accounted for the difficulties tenants experience when trying to change rooms throughout the year. “Amsterdam University College has urged us not to allow internal moving outside the moving period in July,“ said Weverling.
This was later confirmed by Marcus Smit, team leader of Service and Communication at AUC. Not allowing students to move outside the moving period serves the purpose to ensure none of the rooms reserved by AUC stay empty, as AUC will carry the charges for unoccupied rooms. “We do admit that we make exceptions in special cases since we want to please and aid our students. The exceptions we make are for students who must move due to medical reasons, in certain cases we give them priority,“ said Weverling.
Smit disagreed with the common belief that DUWO’s prices are inconsistent, claiming they are restricted by social housing rules which are checked by the government with the help of a point system. In respect to the shared double rooms, Smit states that they are “legally suitable for two people, but might be less desirable than others.“ According to Smit, the perceived notion of inconsistency in rent among the students originates from the fact that the rent on single rooms is too low. To his knowledge “others pay little, the people in tiny rooms just pay normal,’’said Smit. The double rooms are intended to be occupied by exchange students, as they are usually used to sharing their university housing, however this year due to the increased number of students entering AUC this was not possible to fulfil.
Smit recommends those students who find their rent price to be too high to visit the Huurcomissie website. Here they can check whether the price of the rent is appropriate. Smit ends his recommendation by re-emphasising that some rooms are “not ideal, but that legally nothing is off.“