Amsterdam leaps up list of most expensive cities, but is still only 50th

Amsterdam has risen 35 places in Mercer’s annual ranking of the most expensive cities for expats, but still only comes in 50th place. Consultants group Mercer bases its ranking on the cost of eating out and entertainment as well as the price of renting a home. The high cost of rental properties in Amsterdam is likely to be the main reason for the city’s rise up the list. Newcomers can expect to pay upwards of €1,500 for one-room apartment of 50 square metres – if they can find one. Average new rental contracts in the city are now over €2,200, according to research by housing platform Pararius. Hong Kong is top of the list, replacing Luanda, the capital of Angola, followed by Tokyo and Zurich. ‘Overall, Western European cities have all risen in the rankings, a result of strong local currencies against the US dollar and the cost of goods and services,’ Mercer said. In particular, cities in Germany experienced some of this year’s biggest surges in the ranking, with Frankfurt (68) and Berlin (71) jumping forty-nine spots while Munich (57) climbed forty-one places. Copenhagen, in 14th place, is the most expensive EU city, followed by London in 19th position.  More >

Student room shortage hits Groningen

Foreign students in Groningen are experiencing such problems finding somewhere to live that university staff have even been asked to rent them rooms. The Volkskrant said on Tuesday that tents have been put up on one campus to house homeless students while others are being offered a month's accommodation in a boat hotel for almost €1,300. One student, Michael Aidi, who is half Romanian, half Lebanese, has replied to over 100 adverts on Kamernet, the website where student rooms are advertised, without success. He hopes to take a Master's degree in advanced materials at the chemistry institute run by Nobel prize winner Ben Ferringa and is now staying in a bed and breakfast, some 20 kilometres from Groningen. 'All the rejections are so disheartening,' he said. 'If I had known this, I would never have come to Groningen.' Other foreign students the Volkskrant spoke to are sleeping on a mattress at student house, which responded to an emergency appeal for places by the student political party DAG. 'We've been lucky and we have been made very welcome,' said Eleonora Kirekchieva from Bulgaria, who is living in the house sitting room and has a place at the Minerva art college. 'But it is not ideal.' Black on white University spokesman Jorien Bakker told the paper that the university has made it clear accommodation is hard to find. 'We have put it down, black on white,' she said. 'Finding a room is difficult, the market is tight and we don't organise anything. If we said there are no rooms in Groningen, then no-one would come... and many foreign students do find somewhere to live.' Some 2,500 foreign students will start a degree in Groningen this year, up by several hundred on last year. The university actively recruits foreign students, particularly outside the EU. 'We want to be an international university with a healthy mix of Dutch and foreign students.' Landlords Earlier this month, Dutch students union Lsvb  again sounded the alarm about the way foreign students are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. ‘They are being exploited by landlords charging high rents and with weird terms and conditions. This can’t go on,’ spokeswoman Geertje Hulzebos told the Parool. ‘This has all been made possible by the shortage of rooms.’ Some 122,000 foreign students attended courses at Dutch universities and hbo colleges last year, double the 2013 figure. The students usually try and find a place to live from abroad, making it impossible to view the room. The Lsvb says universities and colleges should stop trying to attract foreign students unless they can organise proper accommodation for them. The union, which has set up a housing hotline for foreign students to report problems, made a similar plea in 2017. Read more at Are you a foreign student in the Netherlands? Share your experiences of finding somewhere to live in the comment section below.  More >

Student loans hit mortgage potential

Former students are finding it difficult to get a full mortgage if they still have a student loan, according to research by student organisation ISO. Banks are looking at the original amount of debt when looking at mortgage requests and do not take what has been paid off into account, the ISO says. This contravenes a motion passed by MPs in 2015. Today's graduates leave with an average debt of around €21,000 and this reduces the amount someone earning €40,000 can borrow to buy a home by €25.418, ISO said. The student body bases its claims on a poll of the five biggest Dutch mortgage lenders. Students grants were scrapped in 2015 and replaced by loans. The ISO says many former students find they cannot buy a house. ‘Students are told that they can borrow money cheaply, but when it comes to buying a house, they hit a brick wall,’ ISO spokesman Tom van den Brink said in a statement. Student loan body DUO is failing in its duty to properly inform students about the risks attached to a loan, Van den Brink said. Debt register Student loans are not included in the BGK national debt register. The BKR lists credit agreements with banks, mortgage providers and other official credit agencies. However, both the VEH home owners lobby group and the BKR say student debts should be included in the register to prevent home owners taking on irresponsibly high loans and getting into financial trouble later. BKR research in 2016 indicated 39% of former students do not tell their mortgage advisor about their student loan.  More >

Rabobank raises house price forecast

Rabobank economists have revised upwards their forecast for house price rises in the Netherlands this year. The bank said earlier house prices would go up by an average 8% but say now the increase is likely to be 8.7% over 2018 as a whole. This is partly because buyers are offering more than the asking price for property. At the same time, the number of sales is going down. The high prices are damaging confidence in the economy and the lack of choice is also having an impact, economist Christian Lennartz said. ‘The lack of houses is one of the most important factors behind the problems in the housing market,’ he said, adding that the fewer permits for new homes have been issued in the past few months. Last year, 242,000 homes changed hands but the total is likely to be no higher than 225,000 this year, the bank said.  More >

Amsterdam holiday-let campaign 'working'

The battle by Amsterdam council against property owners illegally renting rooms to tourists appears to be paying off, city officials said on Wednesday. The number of closures of illegal hotels fell by 10% in the first half of the year, and this shows the crackdown 'appears to be paying off', the city said in a statement. In the first half of this year, officials handed out 71 fines to people who did not register the lets or who had illegally rented out their property. A further 77 fines were given to property owners who had illegally rented out their property to multiple occupants. The number of complaints made to the council hotline fell to 1,394 from 1,572 in the 2017 first half. ‘This decline is partly due to the fact that fewer buildings are being bought by investors hoping to cash in on illegal rentals to tourists,’  Laurens  Ivens, the alderman for housing, told the Telegraaf.  More >