Imagine coming from a foreign country and having difficulties finding housing in Groningen. After a few months of searching for a place, you come across ‘The Village Groningen’, which is presented as one of the higher quality accommodations in Groningen for international students. Apart from a nice and clean room, you are told that there is a gym and a restaurant available.
After arriving at the Village, we were surprised. We saw machines, construction workers, sand and a pile of tiles. Crossing a dangerous street, we had to cycle further all the way to the back were the containers are stationed. Back here, there is no lighting and no bicycle shed. In the front building, there is supposed to be a gym and a restaurant. Both of them are nowhere to be found. The reality seemed to be far from what would have motivated students to move here and unfortunately this is only where the story begins.
This is what happened to an international student who was willing to talk to us about the situation in the Village and to show us around. When we first entered the building with the containers, we were shocked. It looked like a camping site. There are eighteen rooms on the lower floor. Because of the construction of the rooms, the isolation is poor. “If another resident drops a spoon on their floor, I can hear it”, the student told us. When we entered the room, we noticed how small it was. “I try to keep the place clean, but because of the construction site and the gap under my door, dust keeps coming in.” In a small room like this, that’s a problem.
We settled down and the student told us a little bit more about his room and the facilities that come with it. We noticed that his room does not even contain a sink. “If I want to get a class of water or wash my hands, I have to go to the other side of the building to the bathrooms and the kitchen.” There are also problems with the internet connection. “In the beginning, I didn’t even have WiFi in my own room. After they placed a second router, I only have WiFi in just half of my room”. For a student that has to study and use the internet a lot, this is very inconvenient.
When we walked into the kitchen, we were flabbergasted. There were two tiny pits to cook on. “It is too small to cook with two pans,” the student said. Imagine that there are only two kitchens for 18 people and that you can only use one pit in each kitchen at the same time. It does not look like a kitchen. There is a table without any chairs and there aren’t even any cabinets.
Furthermore, we had to check out the bathrooms. When we walked in, we noticed that is was really cold. There was only one small heater, which wasn’t strong enough to produce enough heat for the entire bathroom. Imagine coming out of your shower and immediately feeling uncomfortable because of the cold. There were cubicles with showers that were approximately 1 square meter. The only place where you could hang your towel and clothes on, were outside the cubicles. Your privacy just went out the window. Besides, you have to push the button every twenty seconds to get water out of the shower, you can’t even control the temperature and it isn’t clean at all. All these factors combined, it feels more like a campsite instead of a place you would call home.
Last but not least, the toilets. We were having the slightest bit of hope that the toilets would actually be okay. Unfortunately, in the first cubicle we opened, the toilet seat was broken in half. As you can imagine, we were too afraid to open any others. “We can only get cold water out of the faucets. When I have to shave or wash my hands, this is extremely annoying”, the student tells us.
For 465 euros a month you get twelve square meters with access to broken toilets, a kitchen that looks even worse than the kitchen at any campsite and WiFi that is not even working properly in your room. This facility is located on a construction area next to other industrial buildings. May we present to you, The Village Groningen. A place that is considered to be one of the solutions to the housing crisis in Groningen.
written by Jolien Bruinewoud and Malu Ayoub board members from the Groningen Students’ Union.