Housing in Amsterdam




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Amsterdam is a top tourist attraction: idyllic canals, historical sites, a laid-back atmosphere. Each year, the city hosts millions of visitors.

And those visitors need space, space the locals are lacking.

Wendy Bijwaard, Single Mother: “I sometimes think I’m never gonna find somewhere to live. I just didn’t know what to do.”

Apartments are hard to come by, offers are rare and mostly unaffordable.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “You need to be rich if you want to get an apartment here.”

About one million residents have to share this limited living space — and more and more are having to move out to gray concrete blocks on the city’s outskirts.

University Student, Female, one: “I know a guy who had to live under a bridge for a week or in Vondelpark on a bench.”

The housing crisis is spreading across Europe.

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THE SQUEEZE IS ON Hunting for a Home in Amsterdam

Wendy Bijwaard knows Amsterdam’s East District like the back of her hand; she’s lived here for 20 years, first as a student on a houseboat and then with her husband and children.

But now she’s getting a divorce and she and her two sons need a new home.

Wendy Bijwaard, Single Mother: “They’re offering this house here for 1.5 million euros; it’s very big: three hundred square meters — way too big for me.”

Wendy has a well-paid job and will soon also be receiving support from her ex-husband. In theory she’s well situated, but the housing market is empty.

Wendy Bijwaard, Single Mother: “I don’t know the price for this one yet. I’m afraid it’ll be unaffordable too. But it is pretty; It even has a little garden.

If I see something while I’m walking around, I immediately look at it. But most of the time it’s already been rented out, or it’s way too expensive. Otherwise I would have found something long ago.

Wendy is hoping word-of-mouth will help her find a new place. For now a friend is subletting their apartment to her while they work abroad. But not for much longer.

Wendy Bijwaard, Single Mother: “My boys were born and raised here. So now they go to school here too. I’m very happy it’s one of the most beautiful areas in Amsterdam. All my social contacts, well most of them, live here. And that’s why I’d like to stay here too.”

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Temporary, sublease agreements are commonplace. The housing crisis turns entire lives upside down.

Meiz Koopman is one victim. He’s a reluctant commuter. The student lives in Zaandam, one of Amsterdam’s suburbs.

Every day he bikes to his University for an hour, then takes a ferry, rain or shine. He has no choice.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “I’ve always felt this pull towards Amsterdam. I was born there and went to elementary school there. After that we moved away.

But the mentality there . . . the way of life . . . and all the things you can do there . . . it’s so different and much more open.”

His childhood home is close to his heart — the only thing is most people from Amsterdam can’t afford to live in their own city.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “It’s so frustrating that I need to take the ferry every day. And I’m always at least an hour away from my friends. On top of that, I still live with my mother.”

More than half the students in the Netherlands still live with their parents.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “Right now I’m looking for an apartment that I can share with friends. We could split the rent. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t even have to be pretty. Just as long as it’s here in the city, somewhere.

The University of Amsterdam is bursting at its seams. Right now more than 100,000 students are enrolled. The university’s heavily compete for international students — their tuition fees bring in more money.

But there’s no place for the students to live; and the stress of looking for an apartment keeps them from their studies.

University Student, Female, one: “I know a guy who had to live under a bridge for a week, or in Vondelpark on a bench. He just kept his luggage in a storage . . . and then for a week he was there.

University Student, Male, two: “Our common friend lives, stays in a camping site.”

University Student, Male, three: “The prices are ridiculously high. You have to pay at least six or seven hundred euros for just a simple room.

Meiz has been looking for 10 months; he spends one or two hours each day. He even pays 20 euros a month for a professional site to send him listings — it helps him avoid scams he says.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “The housing market is pretty lucrative. That attracts criminals they create a web page where they pretend to offer apartments that don’t even exist.

But if I don’t know that and I’d register on their page for a fee, I’m being cheated. Every second website is a criminal website.”

And speculation is making matters even worse.

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Everyone names three reasons for the housing crisis.

The first Amsterdam is a tourist magnet with nearly 17 million overnight stays every year — and the numbers are rising.

Tourists love the picturesque scenery and the relaxed atmosphere. Many owners prefer to rent to tourists limiting accommodation for locals.

And hotels pay for rentals on building sites. Even the universities are turning over a profit with prime real estate.

The second cause: Brexit. Many British firms have been moving to the Netherlands and buying housing for their employees — in bulk. Sometimes they privatize entire blocks.

Investors like Prince Bernhard jr. are the third reason. The cousin of the Dutch King is a real estate millionaire: he owns more than 100 prestigious buildings in top locations.

The only ones who could pay such a high rent are rich managers and celebrities from abroad. And they do. To them money is hardly an issue.

This houseboat is for sale for 1.5 million euros as a vacation getaway. Now it just needs a quick polish.

Houseboat Seller: “About a hundred-fifty square meters. We have to levels in the boat. We had an old man from Argentina this morning, so the kind of people who stay for several times in Europe, and they choose Amsterdam. And it’s nice to have an old habitation.”

In Europe accommodation is the highest expenditure. In 11 European countries the price per square meter in urban areas rose so sharply in the past year, it has become virtually unaffordable for the middle class.

In Amsterdam one square meter costs about 21 euros. London is in first place with 30 euros per square meter. And in Paris the most densely populated city in Europe, one square meter costs 25 heroes.

In Rome and Vienna you pay an average of 14 euros, which makes Madrid and Berlin look comparatively inexpensive at just 11 euros.

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A place to call home in Amsterdam. That’s what Meiz Koopman would like best. He’s viewing a place far from the city centre in a suburb with good public transportation.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “I’m hoping to find a place here with two or three bedrooms. I’m not sure yet; I don’t come here very often. But I want to have a look yeah.

I’m hoping my chances will be higher here since the area isn’t very popular.”

Landlady: “Come in. The washing machine in the hallway is communal property all the furniture you see here is brand new.”
Meiz Koopman, University Student: “Okay.”
Landlady: “The kitchen and bathroom are new and unused.”

Sixty-five square meters on two floors all for an incredible two thousand six hundred euros (€2,600). At least Meiz got to come and have a look around . . . most of the time he’s not even invited to a viewing.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “Usually the fact that I’m a student is a problem. Landlords prefer families people who earn money. Unfortunately students have a bad reputation for not handling their money well — and for disturbing the neighbors.”

But even if they split the costs Meiz and his friends would still be paying eight hundred seventy euros each. That’s way too much.

Meiz Koopman, University Student: “The apartment looked nice . . . but considering the neighborhood and how expensive the rent is, we’d be crazy to take it.”

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For now, he’s better off staying with his family — there he contributes 200 euros for living costs.

Mother of Meiz: “I’m happy that he’s still living here. But I know that he’s really preoccupied with the thought of moving out — and I get it he’s 20 years old he wants to do his own thing.”

But his circumstances are different than they were for her generation. Today living on your own in Amsterdam is a luxury.

Mother of Meiz: “More and more young people are choosing not to study, not because they aren’t able to, but because they don’t want to take out housing loans,”

Sky high rents, astronomical real estate prices and growing cities. The housing market is going crazy. And Meiz’s chances of ever moving out are shrinking.

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As a result, the suburbs have become boom towns. In Amsterdam’s southeast district, many people from Suriname have come to settle. They are the ones who keep the city running as nurses as taxi and bus drivers and hairdressers.

But the city has no affordable space for them.

Raymond Simmons has lived in Amsterdam for 48 years. Now 67, he was able to find an inexpensive apartment: two rooms, a kitchen and bathroom, a balcony — and even nice neighbors.

Raymond Simmons, Amsterdam Resident: “That’s what I used to look like that was on a trip with the church group.”

Ever since his son moved out, he’s been offering people in need somewhere to stay.

Raymond Simmons, Amsterdam Resident: “See in Suriname, we all help each other out: if you don’t have a place to stay, you will always be offered a bed. And I’ve made sure to hold on to that mindset. Anyone with a problem can come to me.

I’ve had a woman from Africa stay here, then two men from Suriname, then a man from the Caribbean, and now another one here from Suriname.

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Street, Boulevard. Housing in Amsterdam is plentiful and affordable. True or false?

Canal, River. Is Wendy in a difficult situation because she is uneducated and lazy? Is she currently renting her own apartment?

Bridge, Overpass. Does she love, like or dislike living in the East District of Amsterdam? Does she want to move away?

Housing Complex, Apartment Complex. The economy of The Netherlands consists only of shipping, tulips, cheese and electronics. True or false?

Marketplace, Open Market. Meiz Koopman lives in a dormitory near his university. Is this right or wrong?

Shop, Store, Convenience Store. For university students, is live easy, difficult, in the middle or it depends?

Shopping Mall, Shopping Center. The economy of The Netherlands consists entirely of shipping, electronics, manufacturing, tulips and cheese. Is this correct or incorrect?

Downtown, City Center. Is Amsterdam considered a desirable place to live, work and study?

Plaza, City Square. Is housing in the suburbs still very affordable?

Municipality, Municipal Building, Bureau. Do all residents of The Netherlands have the same culture, ideals, values and beliefs?
Pedestrian Mall. In your city, is housing cheap, medium-priced, expensive or very expensive?

Boutique. Do people complain about the cost of housing? Is there a lot of debate and discussion about it?

Industrial Zone. Has the situation changed over the years, decades and generations?

Residential Area.
Why is housing in many parts of the world so expensive and unaffordable?

Cafes, Bars, Restaurants, Nightclubs, Discos. Are there conflicts of interests?

Suburban Home, Family Home. What might happen in the future?

Apartment, Apartment Building. What should people, businesses and governments do?

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