University of Amsterdam Graduate School of Social Sciences
Research Master Urban Studies
Cohort 2020 - 2022
Studentification in a new country-specific context:
State-led gentrification through partnerships for student housing in the Dutch cases of Amsterdam and Utrecht
Supervisors: Prof. dr. D. (Dorien) Manting & D. (Dolly) Loomans MSc (PhD Candidate)
Second reader: Dr. M.A. (Marco) Bontje
16 June 2022
Word count: 15071
Table of content
SUMMARY ... 3
1. INTRODUCTION ... 5
2. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK ... 8
2.1STUDENTIFICATION AS PART OF A BROADER PERSPECTIVE ON GENTRIFICATION ... 8
2.2TRANSFORMATIVE FACTORS OF STUDENTIFICATION ... 9
2.3GAPS IN THE STUDENTIFICATION LITERATURE ... 11
3. CASE CONTEXT ... 13
3.1PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS ... 13
3.2GENTRIFICATION AND THE STATE ... 13
4. METHODOLOGY ... 15
4.1RESEARCH DESIGN ... 15
4.2METHOD OF DATA COLLECTION ... 16
4.3METHOD OF DATA ANALYSIS ... 18
5. EMPIRICAL FINDINGS ... 20
5.1DIFFERENCES IN MOTIVATIONS SHAPING THE PARTNERSHIPS FOR STUDENT HOUSING ... 20
5.1.1 Amsterdam ... 20
5.1.2 Utrecht ... 25
5.1.3 Interdependencies shaping partnerships for student housing in Amsterdam and Utrecht ... 28
5.2TRANSFORMATIVE FACTORS TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT ... 29
5.2.1 Amsterdam ... 30
5.2.2 Utrecht ... 33
5.2.3 Strategic use possible effects student housing ... 36
6. CONCLUSION ... 39
6.1LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH ... 41
REFERENCE LIST ... 42
The process of “studentification” of neighborhoods within metropolitan areas raises issues regarding the impact on contemporary urban development. This thesis analyses two cases of partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions and explains the impact of studentification on urban (re)development plans. In doing so, it brings together the literature on studentification and state-led gentrification as a complement to the existing literature on studentification.
This research builds on the existing international literature on studentification based on Dutch practice. The Netherlands, unlike countries that are dependent on private investors, has a unique student housing landscape that is primarily shaped by local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions. This research explores the link between studentification and state-led gentrification based on two Dutch cases: the city of Amsterdam and the city of Utrecht. Both cases share a similar history of social student housing and partnerships with local governments. However, Utrecht still has potential land to build on, whereas Amsterdam is characterized by a tight housing market. Furthermore, the cities have different agreements regulating their respective partnerships.
The data in this study were collected from the perspective of the local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions that are involved in the realization process of student housing. Through semi-structured interviews, these actors’ decisions within the development process based on potential studentification effects are explained. The interviews are also complemented by policy documents and student housing reports.
The interviewees described many of the factors related to studentification during the development process of student housing, but with varying emphasis. Drawing on the data in these cities, this thesis examines how local policy towards student housing addresses the possible effects of studentification as a means for urban change. Moreover, it demonstrates differences in how partnerships are shaped and how differences in student housing agreements target specific possible transformative outcomes. Furthermore, this thesis explores how local governments lead the development of student housing in their cities through housing associations and higher education institutions, which is linked to the process of state-led gentrification.
This thesis concludes that the possible effects of studentification should include partnerships for student housing between local governments, social housing associations and
higher education institutions. This would guarantee a comprehensive definition for countries with large numbers of social student housing.
Outlining the impact of student housing on urban change, this thesis suggests that studentification raises important notions about social, economic, cultural and physical factors among the analyzed target groups. The results in this research confirm that studentification can be used as a means for urban (re)development, which contributes to the understanding of studentification in light of state-led gentrification. These findings have implications for urban policy making, as they highlight the possible effects of studentification as a means for urban (re)development from the perspective of student housing partnerships and reveal the challenge posed for creating sustainable communities and neighborhoods in university towns.
Keywords: Studentification, Student Housing, State-led Gentrification, Gentrification, The Netherlands, Higher Education, University Cities, Social-rented Housing
The arrival of students is a powerful social force that influences urban (re)development (Daneri et al., 2015). This influence is evidenced by changes in urban patterns and consequences associated with student populations in cities: growing use of cultural and consumption spaces (Holdsworth, 2009), student requirements for private-rented housing (Munro, 2009), population change inside of university cities and other urban development processes (Chatterton, 2010; Smith & Holt, 2007). Many university cities experience a type of urban development that is progressively supporting the growth of so-called “student districts.”
Over the last two decades, debates on neighborhood redevelopment have grown increasingly focused on student geographies and their influence on the urban environment (Nakazawa, 2017; Smith & Holt, 2007). This focus is in line with the globalization of higher education institutions and the rise of student numbers (Gregory & Rogerson, 2019). Darren Smith created the term “studentification” in 2002 while researching the influence of student housing on neighborhood transformation in the United Kingdom. Studentification is the process of social, cultural, economic, and physical changes that happen as a consequence of an influx of students, mainly in privately rented housing in areas near higher education institutions (Smith, 2005). Studentification, according to many writers, is linked to new methods in which capital circulates through the urban environment in search of new markets or lifestyles to commodify (Christie et al., 2001; Russo & Tatjer, 2007; Munro et al., 2009; Nakazawa, 2017).
Overall, studentification research seeks to broaden the definition of gentrification to encompass emergent urban (re)development processes (Gregory & Rogerson, 2019).
However, the existing literature on studentification in relation to gentrification is inadequate for understanding the Dutch case of student housing. While most of the academic work on studentification has been conducted in the UK (Kinton et al., 2018; Sage et al., 2012, 2013; D.P. Smith, 2005; Smith & Holt, 2007), many of the studies claim to be universal in nature (Avni & Alfasi, 2018; He, 2015; Malet Calvo, 2018; Revington et al., 2020).
Nonetheless, there is a gap between the literature and the practice in countries that rely on different partnerships for student housing.
For a long time, student housing in the Netherlands was dominated by housing associations, which acted as executives for the government. As universities experienced growth, the demand for student housing grew, which in turn created a housing shortage. The housing associations that are now active in the field of student housing often originated from cooperation with universities and have developed into independent and privatized housing
associations with a public function (i.e., realizing social housing). Today, municipalities, housing associations and higher education institutions together occupy an important position in the development process of student housing in the Netherlands (Savills, 2017). Thus, the studentification literature focused on private developers is inadequate for the Dutch case.
In the Netherlands, there is a lack understanding of how student housing developments are organized and what the objectives are related to urban (re)development. This is especially true for partnerships in which local authorities, housing associations and higher education institutions work together towards the same goal, tackling the housing shortage. Little is known about such collaboration, the negotiation practices or the influence of “the state” in agreements between the three parties.
According to Smith, the diversity of partnerships between the state and other actors (i.e., public and private) enhances the gentrification process (Smith, 1986). These parties react to the government and thus create circumstances for and catalyze the gentrification process via public funding and policies (Zuk et al., 2015). Thus, the concept of state-led gentrification emphasizes the importance of the state as a leading actor in the gentrification process (Hackworth & Smith, 2001; Smith, 2002; Lees, 2003).
This research combines country-specific data with the existing literature on studentification and reconceptualizes student housing as a means of state-led gentrification for urban (re)development. New findings are presented on how partnerships for student housing can lead to the (re)development of Dutch university cities through a comparison between two university cities: Amsterdam and Utrecht. These cities share multiple similarities except on the level of partnerships, where Utrecht has only one student housing association, whereas Amsterdam has multiple (Van Hulle et al., 2021).
In combining both studentification and state-led gentrification, this research analyzes the role of the state together with housing associations and higher education institutions in (re)developing urban areas. The analysis consequently answers the following question: “What role does studentification play in the realization of student housing through partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions in the Netherlands and how does this process lead to urban (re)development?” This main research question is divided into two subquestions:
1. How do different motivations for the development of student housing shape the
2. What possible transformative factors related to studentification are taken into account during the realization process of student housing in partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions in Amsterdam and Utrecht?
By answering these questions, this research integrates the role of the state into the existing debate on studentification. This research analyzes the different partnerships that shape social student housing in the Netherlands. In doing so, it sheds light on the different motives, agreements, power relations and negotiations and their connection to specific urban (re)development objectives. Furthermore, the comparison between Amsterdam and Utrecht reveals differences in collaboration efforts for social student housing in the Netherlands.
2. Theoretical framework
This chapter presents the theoretical framework of the thesis. It first defines studentification in relation to gentrification and then explains the possible transformative factors of studentification on a neighborhood level. The chapter subsequently describes the gaps in the studentification literature.
2.1 Studentification as part of a broader perspective on gentrification
Students have been identified as change agents in a variety of settings, notably in metropolitan regions (Holton, 2016; Nakazawa, 2017). However, the word “studentification” did not appear in the literature until the early 2000s. Prior to this point, the concept of gentrification was applied as an all-encompassing concept for spatial transformation.
Gentrification is one of the most powerful factors that influence and shape contemporary urban areas (Douchet, 2014). Ruth Glass (1964) first used the concept of gentrification to characterize the improvement of historic working-class areas in London’s inner city. According to her description, such improvements include social, cultural, and economic upgrades of the neighborhood or area, which are realized through the influx of affluent new residents and visitors. Moreover, as a result of the new residents, public goods and services adapt to meet the needs of the affluent middle-class residents, making them less financially accessible for lower- class residents (Smith, 1982).
Since Ruth Glass's introduction of the concept, the process of gentrification has evolved via a variety of large-scale economic and political circumstances. As a result of economic and political changes and the government's growing involvement in the process, gentrification occurs in different waves, each with a distinct shape and form and a specific role of the state (Hackworth & Smith, 2001). The last wave refers to a controlled kind of gentrification in which the government collaborates with local actors to promote the positive effects of gentrification.
State-led gentrification is another term for this type of gentrification. The shifting involvement of the state is one of the most important developments in gentrification (Smith, 2002). The method in which urban transformation is supported by changes in urban policy, such as public–
private partnerships and developer subsidies, is a critical component of “state-led”
gentrification (Lees & Ley, 2008).
“State-led” gentrification is also accompanied by ideological shifts from “state housing”
to “social housing,” reshaping the relationship between financier, provider and tenants (Watt, 2013). Urban design that supports “social mixing” is also emphasized in the literature on state- led gentrification. Social mixing allows middle-class citizens to relocate into lower socio- economic neighborhoods, allegedly to solve inequality issues and problems connected with poverty (Huning & Schuster, 2015). These developments demonstrate how gentrification is evolving from a market-investment process to a more organized state-led operation that swiftly alters entire neighborhoods (Smith, 2002).
Studentification is frequently viewed as a new form of gentrification, and some scholars believe that the definition of gentrification should be broadened to encompass processes of neighborhood transformation like studentification (Smith & Butler, 2007; Smith, 2007). Others argue that the process of studentification is similar to the process of gentrification except for the fact that student capital is scarce (Hubbard, 2009; Smith & Holt, 2007).
According to Tyler (2008), the studentification process arises as a result of the settlement of one or more institutions of higher education in a city. When students settle in a city, they settle in neighborhoods that were previously inhabited by other social groups (Smith, 2005). They live in either privately rented multi-occupancy dwellings or purpose-built student accommodation (Smith & Holt, 2007). With the new concentration of students in certain neighborhoods, “studentification” emerges. Hubbard (2008) described a degree of dominance that students achieve within neighborhoods. Their dominance leads to certain transformations in the neighborhood.
2.2 Transformative factors of studentification
To understand how studentification affects spatial transformation, the literature explores how the concentration of students changes certain factors in a neighborhood. Smith (2006) argued that these factors can be categorized into four dimensions: (1) a social dimension: the replacement and/or relocation of the established residents for a temporary, generally young and single social group; (2) a cultural dimension: the growth of concentrations of young people with shared cultures, lifestyles and consumption practices; (3) a physical dimension: the improvement or deterioration of the physical environment; and (4) an economic dimension:
changing house prices due to the arrival of a high concentration of students. The transformative factors that arise within these dimensions are summarized in Table 1 (Smith & Holt, 2007, p.
Table 1: Four dimensions of the effects of studentification
Note: Reprinted from “Studentification and ‘apprentice’ gentrifiers within Britain's provincial towns and cities: Extending the meaning of gentrification,” by Smith, D. P., & Holt, L., 2007, Environment and Planning A, 39(1), 142-161, p. 149.
Depending on the social group affected and the specific context, the implications of the four dimensions of studentification may be favorable or harmful. Overall, the benefits of studentification include economic benefits through the multiplier effect, regeneration of declining central city areas, repopulation of central cities, revitalization and a thriving community, social capital and social networks of young people, viability of public infrastructure and services, increased spending power in the local economy and increased social capital and social networks of young people (Kenna, 2011).
The main structural problem resulting from studentification is the demographic imbalance (Tyler, 2008), which refers to the relatively high number of adolescents (students) compared to other age groups. Moreover, students are also temporary residents: they study for a number of years and then move again (Tyler, 2008). As a result of this structural problem, Tyler (2008) argued that studentification directly and indirectly leads to 15 functional problems, which he divided into five groups: (1) an increase in social problems, including antisocial behavior such as noise pollution and increased crime; (2) an increase in environmental problems, for example due to an increase in waste that students dump on the street; (3) an increase in economic problems, including a shift to seasonal employment due to the seasonal inhabitants (students); (4) general problems, such as the nuisance of cars and a shortage of space to park and (5) a decline in social cohesion. Sage, Smith and Hubbard (2012) also argued that
Hubbard (2008), established residents marginalize students on the basis that the values and lifestyle of the students are perceived as different from those of the present residents.
2.3 Gaps in the studentification literature
The linkage between studentification and gentrification is a topic explored by various authors in the studentification literature. Smith’s (2005) conceptualization of studentification identified several elements that are strongly connected to the gentrification process. First, studentification exerts an economic impact that may result in rent revalorization and inflation.
Second, the social consequences of studentification may result in the displacement of previous inhabitants. Third, the growth of a student lifestyle and culture can lead to community conflict and disturbance. Lastly, investing in student housing may result in an initial property enhancement but a subsequent degradation in the physical environment. This last point contradicts gentrification arguments, which portray the process as improving the environment (Smith & Holt, 2007).
Despite these linkages, studentification varies from gentrification in several aspects (Smith, 2005). For example, students occupy an unclear social position; they are mostly from middle-class origins, yet lack the cultural, social and economic capital that gentrifiers possess.
Nonetheless, studentification is a multifaceted phenomenon with varying expressions depending on the setting in which it occurs.
Since the early 2000s, the concept of studentification has attracted increased academic attention, primarily in the United Kingdom (see Smith & Holt, 2007; Smith, 2008; Munro et al., 2009; Sage et al., 2013; Smith & Hubbard, 2014; Holton, 2016). Beyond the United Kingdom, there are few studies on the process of studentification, though the effects are increasingly widely recognized (Nakazawa, 2017). There has been a small amount of research in European countries (Garmendia et al., 2012; Grabkowska & Frankowski, 2016; Malet-Calvo 2017), Australia (Fincher & Shaw, 2009; Davison, 2009), and the United States of America (Fincher & Shaw, 2009) throughout the last decade (Foote, 2017).
Sage et al. (2012) examined how studentification occurs in old social-rented housing, while a further study demonstrated how the growth of student populations and higher education institutions helps to shape cities in the Global South (Gu and Smith, 2019). According to Prada’s (2019) research in Chile, in contrast to the results in other university cities, the entry of students boosted the reputation of the examined neighborhood, and students therefore served as gentrifiers. The research on post-socialist urban transitions and studentification reveals
contradictory trends: as a studentified district's socio-cultural variety grows, conflict grows (Fabula et al., 2017). Grabkowska and Frankowski (2016) presented a case study from Poland that demonstrates why studentification has a detrimental influence on the quality of urban environments. This line of research focuses on a critical issue: the local factors that create studentification variance. The strategies of local actors in realizing student housing and the effects they want to achieve on spatial changes have generally received little attention (Miessner, 2021). By bridging the studentification and state-led gentrification literature, it is possible to examine whether gentrification happens through student housing and how local actors are involved in this process, particularly local governments (“the state”).
3. Case context
This chapter explains the Dutch context as an overarching context for the cities of Amsterdam and Utrecht. Student housing in the Dutch context is regulated and primarily provided by housing associations (Jonkman & Janssen-Jansen, 2018) in close partnership with local governments and higher education institutions (Van Hulle et al., 2021). Therefore, most of the literature on studentification does not fit the Dutch context as it focusses largely on private developers and organic processes associated with the arrival of large groups of students. As a result, there is a lack of understanding of how negotiations are organized in the Dutch context and what the objectives of each party are related to urban (re)development.
3.1 Public-private partnerships
According to Guarini and Battisti (2017), local governments and housing associations are key stakeholders in the initial stage of urban regeneration projects in the Netherlands. Although local government engagement in social housing has been declining in favor of housing associations’ duties, they continue to play an essential role in urban renewal.
The social rental sector in the Netherlands includes houses in regeneration areas.
Housing associations are essential, as they own a major portion of these houses. A housing association, in collaboration with the local authority, is frequently the catalyst for a redevelopment initiative. In the Dutch context, housing associations pose several advantages:
they have extensive knowledge of the local housing market, they continue to be active in the neighborhood after regeneration and they have interaction with the residents. In the context of urban renewal, housing associations are frequently viewed as the initiator, investor, manager (sometimes in collaboration with other actors) and, increasingly, developer (of social housing).
3.2 Gentrification and the state
Gentrification in the Dutch context is predominantly driven by the state (via a variety of national and municipal policies and programs) through strategies of social mixing and urban redevelopment (Hochstenbach, 2017). For more than a decade, gentrification has entailed the large-scale demolition of lower-income neighborhoods (mainly consisting of social housing
owned or offered by housing associations) and the replacement of those neighborhoods with mixed-tenure neighborhoods (Van Gent, 2013).
Despite the fact that state-led gentrification is common in the Netherlands, researchers have remarked that its impacts are less significant than in Anglo-Saxon nations owing to the regulated and planned character of Dutch gentrification in particular and urban growth in general (Doucet, 2014). This regulated and moderate character of gentrification in the Netherlands (relative to Anglo-Saxon nations) means that the unpleasant experiences and views described in the literature are uncommon (Posthummus, 2013; Doucet & Koenders, 2018).
Despite extensive research into state-led gentrification in the Dutch context, the role of students and student housing is barely mentioned. For this reason, the Dutch context in this research project contributes to both the studentification literature and the Dutch state-led gentrification literature.
This chapter presents the research design and methodology of data collection and analysis.
4.1 Research design
The main objective of this research was to understand the unique collaboration for student housing in the Netherlands, which consists of local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions. To empirically test my theoretical expectations, I employed a comparative case study research design. By comparing two cases, I produced a broad study without losing depth.
I chose to apply a most different system design, as I compare two cities that share similar characteristics of social student housing (e.g., city size, student population, structural housing supply, number of building plans), but differ on the element that I use as an explanatory factor in this research: the type and size of partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions. This factor is essential, as it (i.e., partnerships for student housing) represents the main difference between the international literature and the Dutch context.
Apart from the issues with case study sample bias, it is also difficult to create a clear most similar or most different research design because it requires value judgments about whether shared and non-shared characteristics are important. Therefore, to make the sample selection transparent, I provide an overview of the criteria in Table 2 below. These criteria were based on information from the Dutch Student Housing Monitor (Van Hulle et al., 2021).
Utrecht and Amsterdam are two Dutch cities where there is a clear partnership for student housing between municipalities, housing associations and higher education institutions.
Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands, and Utrecht is the fourth largest city. Both cities have seen a strong increase in the student population in 2021, with Amsterdam in first place and Utrecht in third place in the Netherlands (Van Hulle et al., 2021). Furthermore, both cities have a relatively tight housing market. However, in both cities there is a large structural supply of social housing for students: 50% in Amsterdam and 60% in Utrecht. The forecast for the increase in the structural supply is based on building plans. The plans for structural student housing between 2021 and 2025 are the most extensive in Amsterdam with 5,800 units. Utrecht has building plans for 2,400 units (Van Hulle et al.,, 2021). The primary difference between the
two cases is that there is only one student housing provider (SSH) in Utrecht, while there are several student housing providers in Amsterdam. This is an essential difference, as the form of the partnership for student housing can be used as an explanatory factor in the decision-making process between different parties.
Table 2: Characteristics of case studies (MDSD)
Case 1 – Amsterdam
Case 2 – Utrecht
City size Large Large
Student population 2021 Increase Increase
Housing market Tight Tight
Structural supply of social housing for students 50% 60%
Number of building plans for social student housing by 2025
High (+5,800 units)
High (+2,400 units) Amount of housing associations for social
4.2 Method of data collection
This study employed a purposive sample method in conjunction with the use of an expert sampling strategy. Purposive sampling, also known as selective sampling, depends on the researcher’s judgement when it comes to unit selection (Black, 2010). This strategy was well- suited for this research, as the student housing area is a narrow specialty in every country, with a small number of professionals who are easy to locate.
The professionals were chosen based on both practical and theoretical factors. I included various types of professionals in my sampling to strengthen the validity of the collected data:
policymakers from local governments, policy strategists and project developers from social housing organizations, housing officers from higher education institutions and experts from interest groups. This group of professionals was chosen because it allows for discovering power dynamics within partnerships for social student housing, as well as learning more about factors that lead to success or failure in the partnership. Table 3 lists all participants. As participation was anonymous to ensure honest opinions, the target groups are numbered instead of mentioned by name.
Table 3: Anonymized interview list
Name Location Target group/actor Function
Interview 1 Amsterdam Local government 1 Program manager, student housing
Interview 2 Amsterdam Housing association 1 Strategy and policy advisor Interview 3 Amsterdam Housing association 2 Project developer, student
Interview 4 Amsterdam Housing association 3 Account manager, student housing
Interview 5 Amsterdam Student housing association 1 Strategic advisor Interview 6 Amsterdam Higher education institution 1 Spatial developer Interview 7 Amsterdam Higher education institution 2 Housing officer,
international students Interview 8 Amsterdam Higher education institution 3 Housing officer Interview 9 Amsterdam Representative organization for
Policy advisor, livability, developing neighborhoods, and student housing
Interview 10 Amsterdam Utrecht
National trade association for social student housing
Interview 11 Utrecht Local government 2 Policy advisor, housing Interview 12 Utrecht Student housing association 2 Manager strategy,
communication and real estate management Interview 13 Utrecht Higher education institution 4 Advisor, student life and
Interview 14 Utrecht Higher education institution 5 Portfolio manager, Utrecht Science Park area
Interview 15 Utrecht Higher education institution 6 Director, back office
Qualitative interviews were conducted to gain an understanding of participants’ personal and potentially opposing opinions, which may not be reflected in final reports or policy papers.
Exploring collaborative partnerships and individual perspectives can lead to knowledge of not only how partnerships function, but also how the different actors view the realization process in general. Semi-structured interviews were used as the data collecting strategy.
Based on the sizes of the partnerships for social student housing, I conducted 15 interviews in total, 10 in Amsterdam and five in Utrecht. The difference in the number of interviews is due to the fact that there are fewer actors in the Utrecht partnership than in the Amsterdam partnership for student housing. In Amsterdam, interviews were held with several housing associations, while in Utrecht only one housing association is active in the field of student housing.
Qualitative interviews provide new understanding of social phenomena by allowing respondents to think about and reason a range of topics in new ways (Folkestad, 2008). Because
interviews were the primary method of data collection in this study, it was critical to pay attention to the methods that were used for data gathering in the early phases. A standard interview topic guide was created and utilized in both cities, with certain alterations made based on the target group. The topics included function, process, dependency, goals and location selection. The data were collected using Microsoft Teams. All of the interviews were held in Dutch and lasted an average of 50 minutes, with some lasting as little as 45 minutes and others as long as 70 minutes. All interviews were recorded and transcribed.
Additional sources were also analyzed to collect information regarding the larger context in which the social student housing market operates. These sources included student housing reports, housing and education policy documents, statistical data, and general housing market information available through the media. Furthermore, I also conducted participant observations on a project called UPLIFT. Participant observation is a technique that allows researchers to gain knowledge about the activities of participants in a natural context by watching and engaging in the activities. For this research, the participant observation set the stage for the creation of sample criteria and interview topics (De Walt & De Walt, 2002).
In January 2020, the UPLIFT project started, funded by the European Commission. A youth panel in collaboration with the initiators of the municipality of Amsterdam, Lieven de Key (housing association), TU Delft (higher education) and !WOON (foundation) was organized to discuss important themes concerning student and youth housing.
4.3 Method of data analysis
During and after each interview, I wrote down the most crucial insights. I re-read all of the transcripts after I finished transcribing all of the interviews to familiarize myself with the information. This step aided in the creation of an overview and the ability to recall who said what, which was useful in the coding process. The findings were structured to justify the key arguments of this research through an iterative process of moving back and forth through the data, constantly connecting and analyzing themes and aspects. The results and outcomes are detailed in the next chapter.
The interviews were conducted and analyzed with the aim of answering the main research question. The assumption that the allocation of student housing leads to gentrification effects was used as a starting point for conducting the interviews as well as for analyzing the
the interviewer will interpret a certain statement differently than how the interviewee intended it. The intention was that the data were structured in such a way that certain patterns would arise (Baarda and Goede, 2006).
This research uses grounded theory, which comprises three steps. The first step is open coding of the data. The entire text is read and irrelevant data are excluded, with the exception of information that the respondents indicated to be of critical importance. In addition, a first categorization occurs by coding the preserved text. The second step uses focused coding (Bryman, 2008). This process consists of a thinning of the remaining relevant information whereby two or more related labels are merged or irrelevant labels are removed. The third and final step focuses on building the data. Where in the first two steps the information was broken down, in the third step of grounded theory the remaining information is related to each other and subdivided into main labels or themes. The themes contain statements by the respondents that describe the context of the social student housing partnerships in Amsterdam and Utrecht and support or contradict existing theories on the linkage between studentification and (state- led) gentrification. The following chapters further detail the analysis of the interviews.
5. Empirical findings
This chapter presents the results for each of the two subquestions. Each section first analyzes Amsterdam followed by Utrecht using various quotes from interviewees and citations from policy documents and housing reports. The first section explains how the partnerships for student housing are shaped by different motivations. The second section then identifies the transformative factors that are taken into account during the realization of student housing through the described partnerships. The two subquestions ultimately serve to answer the main research question, “What role does studentification play in the realization of student housing through partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions in the Netherlands and how does this process lead to urban (re)development?” (see Chapter 6).
5.1 Differences in motivations shaping the partnerships for student housing
This section offers an answer to the first subquestion: “How do different motivations for the development of student housing shape the partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions in Amsterdam and Utrecht?”
In October 2018, the National Student Housing Action Plan was signed by the Dutch government, the G4 and representatives of housing providers, educational institutions and students (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019b). This action plan focuses on a structurally better match between the demand for and supply of student housing. Local parties were asked to sketch an annual picture of the housing situation for students and to make agreements about the supply and demand of student housing. Amsterdam is one of the forerunners when it comes to partnerships in the field of social student housing. The city has had an active policy with performance agreements between the various stakeholders for student housing since 2006.
Since that time, significant steps have also been taken in the field of partnerships between the municipality, educational institutions, housing providers and students.
The reason that the municipality of Amsterdam has entered into partnership with other
on private land positions and on the transformation of existing rights. For this reason, it is essential that the City of Amsterdam seeks partnerships.
One of the important points in the “Programme Plan Youth and Student Housing 2019–
2022” was that the collaboration between different parties had to be precisely formulated (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019b). A method to achieve this goal was to sign an agreement with the parties involved in order to record a formal cooperation agreement:
Sign a covenant between educational institutions, possibly housing association and the municipality about the shared responsibility for student housing. The availability of student housing is important for the city and in particular for educational institutions.
The supply of student housing is important for their growth opportunities. They also have a responsibility in this. This is done by using our own land positions for (temporary) student housing, committing to student housing within the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, raising awareness about the consequences of the Anglicization of studies and providing clarity about the development of the number of students.
(Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019b)
The municipality of Amsterdam has clear expectations about the responsibility that lies with housing associations and higher education institutions. There are three reasons for the choice to pursue partnership. First, the municipality of Amsterdam is the party that issues land positions in area development for affordable student housing. Second, housing associations are then the parties that take care of the construction and rental of affordable student housing.
Because of the affordability principle, housing associations are therefore given priority with regard to their position in the land allocation of the municipality. Finally, higher education institutions are involved in the collaboration because of their own land positions or buildings that they can use for affordable student housing. They benefit from the construction of more student housing and have an overview of the (increasing) influx of students into the city.
Within reports by the student housing association DUWO, a similar description of the student housing partnership is found. DUWO acknowledges the partnership as essential for the realization of their housing developments:
Important partners are the educational institutions and municipalities in our working area. We work together in structural consultation on student housing and/or on individual projects. We sign performance agreements with municipalities and we make annual offers to them of what we will achieve for them. Moreover, there is a lot of separate consultation with the educational institutions, because they purchase housing from us for their international students through contracts and because we often work
together towards governments to represent the interests of students (housing). (DUWO, 2020)
The general motives of all three actors share a common ground: to tackle the shortage of student housing together. However, higher education institutions to some extent disagree with this objective:
This [realization of student housing] is not our job. Our job is to work on education and research. It was born out of necessity that we put a lot of time and energy into this [the partnership for student housing], because we see that this is extremely important for our most important stakeholders and namely the student. If you look at the International Student Barometer, we see that study success is also influenced by the housing factor.
This gives them stress. For this reason, we are committed to the student by participating in this collaboration. (Interview 6, higher education institution Amsterdam)
Two out of three higher education institutions in Amsterdam stated that the student housing partnership was born out of necessity instead of personal motivations. They agreed that the increase in students is partially their responsibility and therefore indirectly makes them responsible for the student housing shortage. In a “normal” setting with a balanced housing market, higher education institutions would merely serve as a “signaling messenger” about the increase of students (Interview 7, higher education institution). By being involved in the student housing partnership, the higher education institutions “encourage other actors to steer into the right direction for a solution of the student housing shortage” (Interview 6, higher education institution).
(Mutual) expectations and dependence
According to the National Student Housing Action Plan, the intention is that cooperation between municipalities, student housing providers and educational institutions is clearly formulated in the form of agreements (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, 2018). For example, the three parties must consult as often as necessary, municipalities must explain their policy for student housing (e.g., land positions), housing providers must advise municipalities and educational institutions about suitable offers for students and educational institutions must take student housing into account in their growth ambitions. The municipality of Amsterdam calls these agreements “the basics for their specific local agreement” (Interview 1, local
Housing associations in Amsterdam are required to produce a certain amount of student housing according to municipal agreements, but they are dependent on construction sites that the municipality has to allocate:
The municipality owns land itself and those sites are then divided. Agreements are made about this. The municipality sets the framework to make this possible, so rules about ownership have an impact on whether we can deliver the performance that is expected from us. For example, we [housing association] had a very long discussion about not wanting temporary locations, for example, but the municipality does not agree with our standpoint. Therefore, we will be limited in the possibilities to build student housing.
(Interview 2, housing association)
Temporary locations were also discussed in the interviews with other housing associations.
Some interviewees were frustrated because temporary housing limits the possibilities for the development of high-quality complexes and are often “poor locations,” meaning that they are not developed yet (Interview 3, housing association). In this view, the dependence creates limitations in housing association building plans.
A respondent who is involved in project development indicated that this dependence is not only limited to the land positions that housing associations are allocated by the municipality.
The rules surrounding a zoning plan also impose restrictions. Zoning plans are intended to indicate how land may be used (e.g., location, target group, building height). “The municipality decides. It determines what the building looks like, whether stone or concrete may be used, et cetera. That means that they also determine many things that influence the amount of money we have to spend” (Interview 3, housing association). The municipality of Amsterdam states that these agreements are dependent on the “political-administrative climate” that is formed by the municipal council in session at the time. These agreements are separate from the
“programmatic agreements such as the action plan and the covenant” (Interview 1, local government). In this view, the Youth and Student Housing Department is also dependent on political-administrative decision-making.
The agreements that have been formulated are formalized to ensure that “housing associations are accountable for the agreements made” (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2022). In order to ensure that the formulated agreements are completed in consultation with the housing associations, there is an organization that acts as an advocate between the municipality and the housing associations. This representative, also known as the federation, brings together the standpoints of all housing associations in Amsterdam and conducts discussions with the municipality on their behalf. Their position is that “students bring a lot to the city” and that
therefore “good coordination for the construction of student housing is necessary” (Interview 9, representative organization for housing associations). This organization offers necessary resistance if the municipality produces agreements that the housing associations cannot support.
This organization also provides evaluations based on the period defined by agreements.
A topic that was not discussed in two of the three interviews with housing associations or with the municipality is the collaboration with higher education institutions. This party is frequently mentioned in (policy) documents with collaboration agreements, but its importance was not explicitly mentioned during the interviews when interviewees were asked about their partnerships for student housing. Nevertheless, higher education institutes are an important player in this partnership, and the parties depend on the “growth ambitions of higher education institutions,” according to the National Student Housing Action Plan (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, 2018). Representatives of higher education institutions emphasized in the interviews that municipalities are strongly dependent on their institutions:
The basic principle of the covenant is: how are we going to tackle the shortage of student housing? How do we ensure affordability and safety for our students together?
Municipalities themselves cannot do anything about the numbers of students who come to Amsterdam. They need our knowledge for that. (Interview 7, higher education institution)
One respondent mentioned that a housing association is taken more seriously if the demand for new student housing comes from educational institutions. According to this respondent, the involvement of higher education institutions “holds more weight in the demand” and it sounds better than if housing associations have individually decided to realize more student housing (Interview 5, housing association). However, the respondent also noted the housing shortage, which sometimes outweighs the demand from higher education institutions. This result is sometimes the “housing association and higher education institution against the municipality”
(Interview 5, housing association).
During the interviews with representatives from the higher education institutions, it was striking that they view dependence on the municipality and housing associations differently.
Despite stating that the role of higher education institutions in the collaboration for student housing arose out of necessity (Interview 6, higher education institution), the respondents also acknowledged the “different interests within student housing” (Interview 7, higher education institution).
already has land positions in the city to build on, the other does not and is therefore dependent on the distribution of land positions from the municipality of Amsterdam. One way in which the higher education institutions try to reduce this dependence is by moving outside the city.
The interviewees called the shortage of land in Amsterdam “problematic” and want to “promote the interests of the target group [students] by going to all the peripheral municipalities and making a stand against the municipality of Amsterdam” (Interview 6, higher education institution). One respondent labelled his party the “engine” for the construction of student housing outside the city.
Like Amsterdam, Utrecht has an active policy on student housing partnerships to tackle the housing shortage. In reaction to the National Housing Action Plan , these partnerships are also formalized in a covenant (Municipality of Utrecht, 2020). The parties have been working together since 2012 on the implementation of the Student Housing Action Plan Utrecht. The action plan includes actions around numerical substantiation, locations, promising coalitions and supporting measures. The parties consider it necessary and desirable to intensify cooperation by means of a covenant and to implement a joint effort toward this end (Municipality of Utrecht, 2020). In the National Student Housing Action Plan 2018–2021, it was agreed that municipalities, educational institutions and housing associations would jointly reach agreements to better match the supply and demand of student housing.
The joint vision of the three parties is to facilitate the Utrecht knowledge economy and thus maintain the accessibility of higher education institutions:
All parties want Utrecht to be an international, innovative city. The ambition of the higher education institutions is to be international with a diverse student and staff population. Internationalization contributes to the quality of education and research; it strengthens the knowledge economy and is necessary to connect to the international playing field. This requires international students, talented researchers and lecturers to continue to choose Utrecht educational institutions. Sufficient affordable housing for this target group is an important condition for this. This is putting extra pressure on the Utrecht housing market. (Municipality of Utrecht, 2020)
That the parties all recognize this joint task is apparent from the many policy documents that are available. In contrast to Amsterdam, the municipality of Utrecht describes the dependence that all parties have on each other. For example, “reciprocity” is mentioned several times in
policy documents such as the covenant (Municipality of Utrecht, 2020). In order to make the cooperation as concrete as possible, a number of principles of cooperation are included in the City Agreement for Living (Municipality of Utrecht, 2019a).
1. Agreements as concrete as possible 2. Reciprocity: we need each other to realize agreements. Each partner makes an active and appropriate contribution for him/her. 3.
Transparency of interests and principles and respect for each other's role, powers and financial possibilities in the provision of student housing: 4. More unconventional and creative collaboration. Room for small examples, pilots and mistakes. Share and learn.
5. Collaboration with residents, renewal of participation policy 6. Collaboration is not without obligation: Addressing compliance with agreements 7. Annual evaluation of collaboration. 8. Take collective action in advocating matters that are in the interest of healthy urban student life. (Municipality of Utrecht, 2019a)
The municipality also indicates that, because of the social philosophy of housing associations, the municipality prefers to work with them rather than with other private parties (Interview 11, local government). The current Coalition Agreement further states that for social housing, there is only cooperation with housing associations (Municipality of Utrecht, 2022).
Mutual expectations and interdependence
Despite the fact that all parties in Utrecht share a common vision, there is a difference in the relationships between the parties. For example, the municipality of Utrecht describes how certain decisions are made in local administrative consultations, which are then “unilaterally absorbed into cooperation documents” (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019c). A so-called
“escalation model” is also described in the covenant (Municipality of Utrecht, 2020). This model is used “unilaterally” by the municipality when parties disagree or when cooperation is difficult or comes to a standstill. A designated municipal officer of Utrecht is assigned for each part of the process.
However, the municipality of Utrecht notes in policy documents its major role in the accumulation of wishes and recognizes the impact on the financial viability of projects for student housing. For this reason, the municipality states in policy documents that it “do[es] not enforce new wishes after political decision-making.” This agreement is in contrast to Amsterdam, where wishes from the municipality at a later stage of the development process—
When housing associations or educational institutions come up with new ideas in Utrecht, the municipality determines whether the plan can be implemented on the basis of a number of criteria, such as target group and environment (Interview 11, local government).
What differs in Utrecht from Amsterdam is that the university is a large land owner. This means that the university owns a large area and therefore has a lot to say about it. As a result, housing associations are also dependent on the university to be allowed to build on their land (Interview 14, higher education institution). This context differs from Amsterdam, because the land that the universities own there is fully developed and has no room for student housing.
However, where in the past the university was independent of the municipality because of its land ownership, it now has to take into account zoning plans and policy requirements:
The municipality has a whole series of requirements with regard to what they want the buildings to look like. I completely understand some of the requirements, but they also had a lot of requirements with regard to the layout of the outdoor space. We have resisted that. When we got our hands on this land in 1960, we did all the management ourselves, the entire layout of the area. So quite frankly I don't need the municipality to prescribe how we should organize this area and that has to do with roles and responsibilities. This is not good for the partnership because you have to negotiate every detail. And secondly, it will always be different in the future, so give us a little freedom of movement. (Interview 13, higher education)
The municipality of Utrecht recognizes these requirements and explicitly states that in each specific case it looks at what is important for the city and the surrounding area and weighs the various interests (Interview 11, local government).
The collaboration between the housing association and the municipality is more personal in Utrecht than in Amsterdam. The representative of the municipality of Utrecht called the housing association a “nice partner” with which the municipality is “interdependent in a positive sense” (Interview 11, local government). The respondent explained that the municipality has large ambitions and that the housing association is doing its best to contribute to them. This difference with Amsterdam can likely be explained by the difference in the number of housing associations, with Utrecht only having one housing association that deals with student housing.
Yet, the housing association representatives also mentioned that the housing association is dependent on land positions issued by the municipality. According to one respondent, the Municipality often makes a slow decision when it comes to issuing land positions and this is a difficult process that the housing association has to go through. However, the Municipality
often has a positive influence on accelerating the development process once the land positions are in the hands of the housing associations (Interview 12, housing association). On a relational level, these two parties “get along very well,” as respondent 12 indicated. However, on a process and project level (during the development of student housing), the relationship is more strained.
5.1.3 Interdependencies shaping partnerships for student housing in Amsterdam and Utrecht
Local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions join forces to ensure a match between the supply and demand of student housing. How the collaboration is shaped is determined locally by all three parties. This chapter describes the differences in how the partnerships are shaped within Amsterdam and Utrecht.
The municipality of Amsterdam has entered into a partnership with housing associations and higher education institutions because the municipality has little influence on private land positions and because of the existing rights of other parties. In order to formalize this partnership, a covenant has been signed by the various parties, which emphasizes shared responsibility and describes the expectations of each party. It is clear that the municipality of Amsterdam has a preference for social housing associations in this collaboration, because this party can provide affordable housing without a profit motive. In addition, the municipality needs information from higher education institutions to predict the influx of students in the city.
While the municipality of Amsterdam has a clear idea of why the three parties should work together to tackle the student housing shortage, not all parties fully agree. Higher education institutes, for example, paint the picture that they participate in the partnership out of necessity, because the housing shortage indirectly influences their performance.
With regard to dependencies within the partnership in Amsterdam, housing associations are be highly dependent on the land positions issued by the municipality of Amsterdam. For example, the municipality of Amsterdam determines which locations are and which are not suitable for student housing. The municipality also determines whether the student houses will be temporary or permanent. Housing associations would like to see a different arrangement, because the lack of flexibility from the municipality limits them in building structural social student housing. The Youth and Student Housing Department of the municipality of Amsterdam indicates that they have no say in this arrangement, because it is dependent on the
Finally, higher education institutions see their dependence on municipal land positions as problematic, which is why they negotiate with peripheral municipalities in order to be able to realize new projects there, together with housing associations. In this way, the higher education institutions hope to be able to create a flywheel effect for more student housing without having to rely completely on the municipality of Amsterdam.
In Utrecht, the same three parties are involved in the partnership for student housing (municipality, housing association and higher education institutions). The difference with Amsterdam is that only one housing association is involved. The municipality of Utrecht has also formulated agreements to which the other parties have agreed. In contrast to the case of Amsterdam, the municipality of Utrecht has formulated explicit agreements about how the three parties interact with each other in the partnership.
However, the partnership works differently than in Amsterdam because of path dependency. The university in Utrecht has been a large landowner for decades, which means that this institution does not always feel dependent on the municipality of Utrecht when building student housing and have a stronger connection with the housing association. Nevertheless, the higher education institutions representatives noted that the authority of the municipality over zoning plans does influence university land, which can lead to serious negotiations between the various parties. Nonetheless, the partnership between all three parties is considered to be harmonious and agreements limit the number of wishes that the municipality can express to the other parties.
In sum, in Amsterdam as well as Utrecht, there is a strong interdependence among all parties in the partnership. They are all driven by the fact that demand and supply of student housing are not in balance more action is needed. However, the dependency of housing associations and higher education institution on the municipalities is particularly strong, as municipalities divide land position. Even if land positions are already in the hands of the other parties (e.g., the university), municipalities have a strong influence on project development through policies such as zoning plans and their visions for specific areas. In the case of Amsterdam, this influence hinders the development of more student housing, which drives parties to the neighboring municipalities.
5.2 Transformative factors taken into account
This section provides an answer to the second subquestion: “What possible transformative factors related to studentification are taken into account during the realization process of
student housing in partnerships between local governments, housing associations and higher education institutions in Amsterdam and Utrecht?”
Amsterdam is known for its residential vision of “the mixed city” (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2018). One of the factors described in the process of studentification is the “demographic structure of the population,” which describes that the population of a certain area can change with the arrival of students. The city of Amsterdam wants to respond specifically to this factor, because it goes hand in hand with the goal of realizing a “mixed city.” Students should live spread across the city:
Young people belong to a diverse target group. The students form a subgroup of this.
The housing associations are an important partner in the housing of these target groups.
The cooperation agreements with housing associations are partly aimed at a fair distribution of the housing supply and a balanced distribution in the city and the maintenance or expansion of social rental housing. (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2021) This vision is in line with a part of the Student Housing Agreement (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019b), which states that the city of Amsterdam strives for inclusiveness such that everyone, regardless of age and income, should be able to live in every part of the city, including students. In addition, spreading student housing across the city ensures that “excessive (re)construction dynamics do not further put pressure on quality of life” (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2022). Another form of social mixing that has become very popular in Amsterdam in recent years is housing concepts that house students and vulnerable groups, which contributes to the mixed city. In the future, the municipality of Amsterdam plans to realize an “age-different living” pilot in order to ensure even more mixing in the city (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019b).
With regard to the location of student housing, it is important that locations are strategically chosen. The location should be close to a public transport node (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2019a). Location is also considered an important element within the Structural Vision of Amsterdam:
The aim is to make the area more accessible by public transport by providing good after-transport from the metro and train stops in the form of local buses, the public
cars. In the longer term, these connections can be extended over or under the A2 so that a connection is sought with the Amstelscheg. (Municipality of Amsterdam, 2011) Housing associations are already responding to this municipal vision by building near public transport (Interview 2, housing association). However, respondent 2 shared that this goal creates a dilemma in combination with the vision to spread students across the city:
And then you can ask yourself: should the students always live in the most convenient place to public transport connections, or should you ensure that your students are spread out throughout the city, because they are often good organizers, because it provides liveliness for activity. The Housing Concepts Department is considering going for the second option. (Interview 2, housing association)
It is important to note here is that the municipality’s urban plans specify where students are allowed to live (Interview 1, local government). Thus, it is not always possible to respond to factors such as proximity to public transport.
The same goes for safety. According to some respondents, it is primarily temporary student housing locations that are not sufficiently safe. In Amsterdam, for example, various temporary student complexes were built in unsafe neighborhoods. According to the municipality representative, this location issue creates many complex problems between all parties involved (Interview 1, local government). One respondent was particularly frustrated about the location allocation of temporary housing. He named several locations that were described by the municipality as spacious and green, but ultimately turned out to be “junk,” as the areas were mostly unsafe (Interview, 2, housing association).
Higher education institutions feel responsible for the safety of their students in student housing (Interview 6, higher education institution). Because of this clear demand for safety, the local government will tackle the problem of insecurity around temporary student housing by using certain steps through a fleet review in future development plans (Interview 1, local government).
Student participation for social cohesion
Various respondents mentioned the willingness of students to engage in social participation in neighborhoods.
Recently, research was done by the Verwey-Jonker Institute and it emerged that young people are willing to do voluntary work in the neighborhood. They do not do that much