In Netherlands, students protesting housing crisis occupy Groningen University building

Progressive sections in the Dutch city of Groningen have launched the Shelter Our Students (SOS) campaign, a couch surfing initiative to help homeless students

September 13, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Students Protest-Netherlands
Students occupying the academy building of the University of Groningen. (Photo: via CJB Groningen)

On September 9, Thursday, Dutch progressive youth and student groups occupied the academy building of the University of Groningen to protest the acute housing crisis faced by students in the city. Several groups, including the Democratic Academy Groningen (DAG), Groninger Studentenbond, Communist Youth Movement (CJB), Groningen Feminist Network, ROOD Groningen, and International Socialists Groningen, among others, organized the campaign called Shelter Our Students (SOS), demanding that the municipality and the university immediately provide free emergency housing for all homeless students in the city. More than 150 people participated in the march that started from Grote Markt and culminated in the occupation of the academy building of the university.

Groningen is a university city in the Netherlands, with students comprising a significant percentage of its population. The University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences are the major educational institutions in the city. The city dwellers, especially the students, are currently facing an acute housing shortage. Progressive sections in Groningen started the SOS campaign, a couch surfing initiative, to help homeless students. As of now, around 550 homeless students have signed up for temporary shelter at SOS.

According to reports, about 75 to 100 students occupied the academy building of the university on Thursday. Following negotiations with Roeland van der Schaaf on behalf of the Groningen municipal council and Hans Biemans from the executive board of the university, the protesters ended the occupation after nine hours. An SOS Groningen spokesperson told the media that the University and municipal authorities agreed to the demand to provide “sufficient, affordable emergency shelter in the city for students who currently do not have a home.”

On Thursday, the Groningen committee of the CJB stated that “hundreds of students are without a home while real estate agents ask for towering rents for rooms. The shortage of homes is not only limited to international students but affects the entire working class. Hundreds of thousands of people are on waiting lists, home prices are shooting up and the number of homeless has doubled over the last decade.”

Regarding the mobilization on Thursday, the Groningen committee of ROOD, the youth wing of the Socialist Party (SP), stated, “there is a housing crisis in Groningen! more than 1300 students are expected this year than last year, and the university has no adequate plans to accommodate them. Our goal is to help homeless students get temporary housing, while pressuring colleges to address the issue.”