Rental Precarity in Urban Housing Markets

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Graduate School of Social Sciences (GSSS)

Rental Precarity in Urban Housing Markets

Contextualizing the housing pathways of non-European students in Amsterdam and Brussels

Jasmin Baumgartner Student Number: 13224034

Research Master Thesis Research Master Urban Studies

June 16


, 2022

Thesis Supervisor and First Reader: Prof. dr. Richard Ronald

Second Reader: Dr. Cody Hochstenbach



To start this thesis, I would like to sincerely thank some of the people who have helped me along the way. First of all, I am very grateful to Richard Ronald for introducing me to and guiding me through this new research field of housing studies. I am glad to have chosen his Urban Lab, which has put me on a challenging but incredibly rewarding learning journey. Not only has he continuously encouraged me in my own research, but especially after conversations and hearing his straightforward explanations, I was left with the inspired feeling that housing is an immensely insightful lens for researching cities.

A big thank you also for all the practical support and for providing me with many of the contacts that have been instrumental for this research. In this sense, I would also like to express my gratitude to people whose insights have been greatly appreciated: Constance Uyttebrouck, Rodrigo Albea, Maarten Matthis, Pieter Vermeulen, and an incredible anonymous interviewee who significantly helped push this research in the last stage.

More than that, many, many thanks go to all the students who chose to give me their time and were kind enough to trust me with their stories. Without them, this research would not have been possible. I especially want to thank Louis, whose story touched me in many ways and confirmed to me that precarity was the right lens through which I wanted to tell this research. To Anaëelle, thank you for pulling me out of my room and experiencing Amsterdam with me. Thank you also to those classmates who gave me valuable feedback on my introduction and argumentation, which was much needed in spurring me on in the last weeks. Thank you also to my parents, who supported me in studying here and confirmed that there was already interesting material in the casual stories I told them.

Finally, my biggest thank you goes to Yue, who has been by my side from the very beginning of sending an application to this university, and whose constant comforting and guiding words have driven this research and me.



With higher education mobility attracting significant numbers of incoming international students to urban centers, universities and municipalities alike are having to address the accommodation of this growing group in the housing market. As housing provision in European cities is typically only marginally linked with universities, students are left to fend for themselves in the private rental market. The housing experiences of young people in rental tenure, however, have been increasingly linked to informal housing options, frequent unplanned movements, and exploitive conditions. Using Dotsey and Chiodeli's (2021) housing precarity framework, I examine the construction of housing precarity in Amsterdam and Brussels rental markets to provide an institutional explanation of local divergences in housing pathway outcomes of non-European students. This qualitative, comparative urban study goes beyond the research on the socio-spatial impacts of student concentration or living preferences by arguing that housing conditions are contextual results of interplays between neoliberal government policies and municipal regulations.

Semi-structured in-depth interviews with 44 non-European students revealed housing precarity in chaotic and studio-exclusive pathways and coping strategies, such as couch- surfing to bridge homelessness, leaving the city, renting from social networks, or living only in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). Structural drivers of this housing precarity are local combinations of shared housing and rent regulation, restrictive tenant- based subsidies, decreasing university support, and competitive rental markets. In Brussels, shared housing remains the norm for students, while Amsterdam showcases signs of a dualization in the student housing market driven by tenure segmentation through PBSA. Both cities are illustrative examples of urban centers where neoliberal rental market reforms have institutionalized the transitory character of renting that makes housing precarity a common experience for non-homeowners, going beyond simply a life-stage phase.

Keywords: precarity; renting; international students; comparative urban studies;

purpose-built student accommodation; housing pathways





2.1 Precarity and its application in housing research ...7

2.2 Neoliberal governments and entrepreneurial university cities ...9

2.3 Living precariously: tenants’ position in the rental market ... 11

2.3.1 The need for coping strategies in competitive markets ... 12

2.3.2 Housing pathways ... 13


3.1 Research questions and operationalization ... 15

3.2 Research methodology ... 17

3.2.1 Case study selection: Comparative and local level analysis ... 18

3.2.2 Institutional analysis and expert interview ... 19

3.2.3 Housing pathway interviews: sampling & data analysis ... 21


4.1 Brussels, Belgium: Housing regime in favor of homeownership... 24

4.2 Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Shifts from a dualist to a unitary system? ... 26

4.3 Indicators of rental precarity in both cities ... 28

4.3.1 Limited institutional support and private sector partnerships through PBSA development ... 28

4.3.2 Temporary tenure - a normalization of the transitory character of renting ... 32

4.3.3 Amsterdam: rental market re-regulation & the signs of a dualized student housing market ... 35


5.1 Common themes in pathways and housing strategies ... 38

5.1.1 Market and relational precarity: chaotic pathways and housing strategies ... 39

5.1.2 National network-assisted pathway ... 42

5.1.3 University-utilizing pathways ... 43

5.1.4 Home-less students: couch-surfing as a last resort ... 44

5.2 Amsterdam: Living in purpose-built student accommodation ... 46

5.2.1 Studios, a safe haven for non-Europeans? ... 46

5.2.2 PBSA: private-led precaritization? ... 47

6. DISCUSSION ... 51

6.1 Marginal public institutional housing provision ... 51

6.2 National housing regimes influence urban rental conditions ... 52

6.3 Housing pathways are chaotic and reflect tenants’ needs for coping strategies ... 53

6.4 Research Limitations ... 55

7. CONCLUSION ... 57




Across the world, young people are having difficulties accessing urban housing markets.

As homeownership after the global financial crisis has become unattainable for many (Ronald & Arundel, 2021), and social housing only serves to accommodate the most marginalized (De Decker, 2008), a larger and more diversified group is forced to compete in the rental sector (McKee et al., 2017). International students, who previously were viewed as economically advantaged groups with stable housing trajectories, have come to exhibit increasingly precarious positions in the rental market. The marketization of higher education and the failure of governments to provide safe, affordable, and long- term housing for this group has created a student housing crisis (Morris et al., 2021).

Finding housing for internationals can prove more difficult than for natives, as they are assumed to lack the socio-cultural capital essential for the searching process (Hochstenbach & Boterman, 2015) and need immediate accommodation upon arrival.

Their position as outsiders in the housing market is marked by multidimensional discrimination due to their foreign and student status (Fang & Van Liempt, 2020) and can be categorized as housing precarity (Waldron, 2022). Precarity describes situations where secure housing is considered "a temporary concession, not a stable right" (Dotsey &

Chiodelli, 2021, p.12). So far, the academic debate on student housing has zoomed in on the demand-side, focusing on students' collective versus individual housing preferences (Verhetsel et al. 2016), their risk-managing strategies in the rental market (Morris et al.

2021), or even positioned them as gentrifiers, exacerbating the housing conditions of vulnerable groups (Jolivet et al., 2022). These studies, however, only marginally address the structural causes at hand.

Rental housing precarity, which affects the housing possibilities of international students (Morris et al., 2021; Gilmartin et al., 2020), has not occurred in a vacuum. Instead, this landscape of insecure student housing has been decades in the making and warrants research examining the unfolding institutional processes that have instigated this.

Through this research, I will demonstrate how non-European students' housing experiences are structurally conditioned. Non-Europeans make up to 10% of students in university cities like Brussels, yet their experiences have been largely neglected in housing research. Furthermore, research on insecure tenure has shown that groups like


the roll-out of non-permanent tenancies through housing market reforms across cities (Huisman, 2016). In my research, I ask: How have urban forms of housing precarity for non-European students structurally emerged in the rental markets of Amsterdam and Brussels, and through which strategies does this group navigate their housing pathways?

Cities are commonly understood to be the contexts in which multifaceted precarity unfolds, prompting researchers to speak about urban precarity (Campbell & Lahleij, 2021). While precarity is a globally occurring outcome of the restructuring and flexibilization of labor and housing markets (Han 2018), specificities in cities' policies and regulations can work to lessen or intensify these dynamics (Campbell & Lahleij 2021).

This goes hand in hand with a call for local-level comparative research (Hoekstra 2020), as neoliberal policies can be both initiated and counteracted at the urban level, leading to significant contextual nuances in the way precarity is existent.

This research will take a comparative urban approach through the case studies of Amsterdam and Brussels, firstly comparing precarity's institutional production. While Brussels has a long-established history of shared accommodation within a non-regulated rental market and strong institutional university support (De Decker, 2008), Amsterdam is a prime example of a neoliberal and segmented housing market, where commercial purpose-built student accommodation market is marketed as the solution to housing shortages (Uyttebrouck et al., 2020). Institutions are understood as “formal and informal rules, regulations, norms, and understandings that constrain and enable behavior"

(Morgan et al., 2010, p. 2), and Kemp's (2015) analysis of the private rental sector will be used as a guidance in tracing the restructuring processes. I compare the two cities based on their national and local housing regimes, rental market regulation and policies, tenure legislation, and the interplay between non-profit housing providers and individual or commercial actors in the private market. Secondly, I will explain the rental pathways and strategies of non-European students through semi-structured interviews in the form of retrospective housing biographies. The housing pathway framework, defined as "patterns of interaction (practices) concerning house and home, over time and space"(Clapham, 2002, p. 63), offers a conceptual lens to map the nature of housing movements at the intersection of constraints and choice.

Structurally this thesis will start with an introduction to the guiding concept of housing precarity. As precarity emerges as a consequence of neoliberal policies, neo-liberalization provides a useful conceptual tool for understanding the driver of changes in cities and


housing policies. Similarly, literature on entrepreneurial universities, housing provision, and residential financialization will be discussed. Thus, this research uses literature from urban economic geography, housing studies, and urban sociology. To capture the position of students themselves, the framework on housing pathways and tenants' coping mechanisms will be introduced. Following the theoretical section, the rationale for case selection, research design, and data collection will be outlined. The central findings of the thesis will be presented in two chapters that compare the cities along with common (and divergent) themes of housing precarity.

In the first part, I argue that the institutional restructuring of rental markets has a direct two-fold impact on the housing situation of non-European students. Housing precarity is no longer an individualized experience but captures the current rental system at large. In Amsterdam and Brussel, a combination of national housing policies in support of homeownership, a decreasing stock of social housing, the entrepreneurial behavior of housing associations, and the introduction of short-term leases have contributed to a normalization of rental insecurity.

Secondly, and this will be explained through the interview findings, housing policies at the urban level directly influence the housing typologies and pathways that non-European students have access to. While their housing experiences demonstrate similarities regarding frequent movements and periods of homelessness that can only be bridged through help from their social networks, a distinction between the two cities emerges based on policy and regulation.

In Brussels, their pathways are concentrated in the private shared housing market or university accommodation, while in Amsterdam, non-European students try to access the commercial studio segment, which offers rental security, stability, and financial benefits through housing allowances. I argue that in Amsterdam, this has led to a student housing market dualization between the shared housing market and the commercial purpose-built student accommodation segment. However, as I will outline in the discussion, the segmentation of tenure and building typologies ultimately only reinforces the neoliberalization and financialization of housing while providing little remedy for a lack of affordable housing in the rental market.



Precaritization is a threat and coercion, even while it opens up new possibilities for living and working. Precaritization means living with the unforeseeable, with contingency (Lorey, 2015, p.1)

As the guiding theoretical framework throughout this thesis, the concept of precarity is used. It captures interviewees’ individual housing experiences and situates them within the institutional and sectoral production of housing precarity in the rental market through the pursuit of neoliberal policies. As such, it captures the position of students as one of the many groups that struggle to find secure accommodation in overheated urban markets.

2.1 Precarity and its application in housing research

Precarity as a concept captures situations of "insecurity and vulnerability, destabilization and endangerment" (Lorey, 2015, p.10) while denoting a larger ontological experience:

Precariousness implies living socially, that is, one's life is always in some sense in the hands of the other. It implies exposure both to those we know and to those we do not know;

a dependency on people we know, or barely know, or know not at al. (Foreword Butler in Lorey, 2015)

In the 1980s, precarity was used for describing the collective precarity experienced by working classes, as welfare state provisions were reduced, and labor market reforms made long-term, stable employment the exception (Han, 2018). The term "precariat" described the emergence of a class marked by labor insecurity and the collective agency available to labor unions. The application of precarity later had been extended to migrants (Gilmartin et al., 2021) and housing studies (Dotsey & Chiodelli, 2021; Lombard, 2021), capturing the introduction of the neoliberal logic into multiple dimensions of life. As Lorey (2015) argues, it is precisely through neoliberal governments and policies that precarity emerges and becomes reproduced through governing systems based on the

“differential distribution of symbolic and material insecurities” (Lorey, 2015, p. 21).

Within housing studies, the differentiated distribution and differing levels of material or ontological insecurities are frequently researched. For example, studies have researched housing inequality of young people and have showcased that access to homeownership is widely reliant on parental support (Gentili & Hoesktra 2021), widening the gap between groups being able to buy property and those transitioning through insecure and short-term tenure (Grander 2021).


As such, the application of precarity in housing research has witnessed a recent surge in scholarship that has explicitly used housing precarity as the theoretical backbone of investigations (Dotsey & Chiodelli, 2021; Lombard, 2021; McKee et al., 2017).

Conceptualizing a housing preciousness measure for Europe, Clair et al. (2019) provided this definition of housing precariousness:

A state of uncertainty that increases a person's real or perceived likelihood of experiencing an adverse event, caused (at least in part) by their relationship with their housing provider, the physical qualities, affordability, security of their home, and access to essential services.

(Clair et al., 2019, p. 16)

Housing precariousness is therefore seen as a state in which housing conditions place people "at a greater risk of experiencing a shock" (Clair et al., 2019, p.16). It captures situations where housing stability has become a temporary concession while precarity has become the norm. Housing precarity links individual experiences with structural causes of neoliberal housing policies (ibid.). At a political level, housing precarity stems from governmental decisions reinforcing an imbalance in the rights that homeowners (and landlords) and renters can enjoy and tightly regulating conditions of housing provision for marginalized groups (Carr et al., 2018). In its spatial dimension, it “generates and sustains a varied geography of insecurity, flexibility, and temporariness, at once intensifying and normalizing precarity” (Ferrari et al.) that is most prevalent in urban centers (Campbell &

Laheij, 2021).

Although housing precarity is helpful in linking institutional processes with housing outcomes of disadvantaged groups, research has mostly focused on demonstrating precarity in the lived experience of tenants (Waldron, 2022). Dotsey and Chiodelli (2021) have provided a framework that captures housing precarity at its very root. Especially the political and institutional production of precarity will be discussed, and housing pathways and strategies will illustrate the lived experiences instead of collective agency.


Table 1: Dotsey and Chiodeli’s framework on (migrant) housing precarity

2.2 Neoliberal governments and entrepreneurial university cities

According to Dotsey and Chiodelli’s (2021) framework, elements of housing precarity first emerge at the political or institutional level through instruments such as regulation, policies, and laws. In this sense, they call attention to national, regional, or local dimensions which regulate and produce precarity. At the same time, this would indicate geographical divergencies between cities.

The uneven geographical and economic development of neoliberalism is inherently variegated and a result of “in situ forms of regulatory experimentation and institutional tinkering” (Brenner et al., 2010, p. 190). Neoliberalism, a market logic centered on “self- responsibility, competition and entrepreneurialism, efficiency and individual choice”

(Bose, 2015, p. 2619), plays out differently across scales and is defined by the "legacies


of inherited institutional frameworks, policy regimes, regulatory practices, and political struggles" (Brenner & Theodore, 2002, p. 351). For this research, neoliberalism is conceptualized as a mode of regulation that focuses on:

class politics of neoliberal restructuring, state rescaling as part of neoliberal restructuring, economic policy-making under neoliberalism, and efforts on the part of state managers to deal with the negative externalities of neoliberal social and economic policies (Bryne, 2017, p. 346)

Viewing neoliberalism through this lens brings attention to the active role of states and national or local governments as agents in the unfolding process of neoliberalization, which plays out with noticeable intensity and context-specific forms at the urban level (Brenner & Theodore, 2002).

With interurban competition rising, cities have been governed by urban entrepreneurialism, which positions urban spaces through city branding, promotion, and marketing strategies (Wu, 2020). Part of cities' entrepreneurial strategies includes outsourcing service providers in the form of public-private partnerships "focusing on investment and economic development with the speculative construction of place”

(Harvey 1989, p.8)

Universities play a vital part in this process, and their efforts at attracting and retaining young talent for the transition to the knowledge economy have been linked to the built environment through housing developments or science park projects (Moos et al., 2019).

With the emergence of high-rise student condominiums, which Moose (2016) describes as an essential feature of Canadian entrepreneurial cities, universities have become entrepreneurial subjects through their engagement in urban redevelopment. The entrepreneurial university, so Bose (2015), therefore "shares a dynamic relationship with the neoliberal city, by facilitating urban restructuring amenable to the circulation of values" (p. 2619).

The emergence of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) has been at the forefront of such university-led urban development in Anglo-Saxon countries. As Pillai et al. (2021) have demonstrated in the Canadian case, universities have formed public-private partnerships as a market proposition and development strategy of choice by following decision-making techniques from the private sector. Evans and Sotomayor (2021)


describe this transition as one from altruistic higher education institutions (HEIs) "into competitive revenue seekers and repositions students as individual consumers" (p.2).

For commercial and institutional investors, PBSA development has become a lucrative investment (Newell & Marzuki, 2018), who have forged links with universities, being supported through government tax breaks and state initiatives to attract private market and institutional investors (Guironnet & Halbert, 2018). The emergence of this 'new asset class, so Revington and August (2020), has been a "two-fold creation story" (p.869) where a material market for residential rental financialization first had to be artificially created. The following process of financialization then becomes institutionally legitimized through market finance techniques, practices, and discourses, in which asset managers and consultancy companies circulate (Aalbers 2019).

Rather than being a tailor-made sustainable solution to student housing shortages, PBSA is criticized for being yet another feature of modern capitalism. Revington (2021) argued that PBSA, in its creation of a housing submarket, which is focused on the "segmentation of dwelling types and residents according to their characteristics and location" (Revington, 2021, p. 1231), has extracted class monopoly rent by artificially created housing scarcity and residential submarkets (Revington, 2021). Others have argued that through PBSA, boundaries between student and young professional housing are rendered blurry, which

"carves out distinctive residential niches, reproducing the cultural practices of studenthood" (Smith & Holt, 2007, p.156) while displacing affordable housing options for the many (Revington, 2022).

2.3 Living precariously: tenants’ position in the rental market

Students' position in these processes of changing institutional housing provision is mainly only researched in the context of studentification, which describes an “influx of students within privately rented accommodation in particular neighborhoods” (Smith 2008, p.73).

Their concentration in neighborhoods has been discussed through disturbances in otherwise community-friendly neighborhoods, leading to the displacement and pricing out of lower-income residents (Jolivet 2022). Instead, as research by (Fang & Van Liempt, 2020) has shown (international), student housing outcomes reflect more closely those of tenants in the private rental sector (PRS).

Young people’s position in the rental market has been described as a “fallacy of choice”

(McKee et al., 2017), as they are restricted in freely choosing between tenures. Excluded


from homeownership and unable to access the social housing sector because of too high incomes or student statuses, the private rental sector (PRS) is frequently the only accessible tenure. This sector, however, has been described as the most precarious housing tenure (Waldron, 2022) and has even been named the "key driver of homelessness" (Bryne & McArdle, 2022, p. 124). Traditional perceptions of private sector renting as a transitional tenure (Hoolachan et al., 2017) have been challenged by research that has shown the delayed entries to homeownership for young adults as generation rent has gained momentum (Fuster et al., 2019).

However, as McKee et al. (2017) argue, rather than highlighting the differing housing transitions of this generation through variables such as intergenerational support (Lennartz & Helbrecht, 2018), it is imperative to acknowledge them as an emerging class of the housing precariat. Recent qualitative research has confirmed the presence of housing precarity, which Claire et al. (2019) outlined in their housing precarity measure.

As such, issues with i) accessibility, ii) affordability, iii) physical qualities, and iv) security of tenure and landlord relationship all affected experienced precarity for renters in the private rental market (Waldron, 2022).

2.3.1 The need for coping strategies in competitive markets

In competitive markets which invoke housing insecurity (Bryne & McArdle 2022), the responsibility of securing accommodation has shifted to renters. In the initial stage of the renting process, renters are accustomed to performing the role of 'good tenants' to avoid possible tenant discrimination in viewings, where landlords or roommates are the gatekeepers to housing, and later through stewardship of homes (Power & Gillon, 2020).

During the rental period, fear of market competition and easy replicability leaves tenants vulnerable positions where complaints to landlords are minimized, and remaining in place despite undesirable living conditions becomes a shared experience (Waldron, 2022).

Moreover, experiences of couch-surfing, remaining at the parental home, subletting with minimal tenant protection, and rough sleeping have become well-documented in cities (Grander, 2021; McKee et al., 2019).

Additional dimensions like relational or cultural insecurity (Bryne & McArdle, 2022) relate to the lack of control and power asymmetry between landlords and tenants when tenants fear eviction through legal loopholes (McKee et al., 2020), or excessive landlord


mechanisms has also been shown through strategies such as flat-sharing to access in- demand locations, minimizing complaints, expenditure minimization, and agitation (Maalsen, 2019; Waldron, 2022). Parental resources are a crucial dimension, too, by assisting in rental payments or temporarily allowing young people to move home to save rent (Waldron 2022). For groups such as international students who cannot use the latter option, risk shifting or risk-averse strategies were found in the private rental sector in Melbourne and Sydney. This entailed doing illegal or underpaid labor to keep up with rising housing costs or sharing rooms and beds to reduce housing costs (Morris et al., 2021).

While these coping mechanisms showcase the experience and negation practices of renters, they once more highlight rental precarity through renters' constrained agency and need for individual 'resourcefulness.' Therefore, they are more indicative of the precarious system than of resilience and empowerment.

2.3.2 Housing pathways

The previous section has shown that living in rental tenure has become the norm for many, frequently marked by rental insecurity and precarity. People's housing movements have also taken more temporary and diverse forms as there is greater mobility within the one- life stage, which in many cases does not resemble traditional housing imaginaries. A rising strand of scholarship now uses the housing pathway framework to capture these movements.

The roots of the term "housing pathway" can be traced back to Clapham's (2002) conceptualization. It builds upon sociological traditions in recognizing the structural inequalities in housing distribution and the households' active role in acting and reacting to their housing context. Having established the links between institutional structures and the personal agency of household movements, Clapham's concept of housing pathways is defined as "patterns of interaction (practices) concerning house and home, over time and space” (Clapham, 2002, p. 63).

However, homeownership is still part of the housing pathways in many cases. While there have been a plethora of different pathways, they can be grouped into two categories. One of the linear pathways (Ford et al., 2002), where limited movement is planned and housing conditions are comfortable, and chaotic pathways (Clapham et al., 2014), where households move frequently, live on temporary contracts, and in informal housing


markets at times. Most research has looked to refine the chaotic category. In their study of housing pathways of young people in Amsterdam, Hochstenbach and Boterman (2015) included social and cultural capital as essential variables in negotiating housing pathways.

They described a progressive chaotic pathway, in which households deliberately choose non-linear pathways, in which planned behavior and informal sources allowed them to access their preferred tenure. On the more precarious side, they found evidence of a reproductive chaotic pathways, in which households were unsuccessful in dealing with constraints and spiraled into a reproduction of their temporary and illegal tenure after being forced to move (ibid.).

In terms of student housing, Ford et al. (2002) firstly identified a student pathway, which was characterized as a planned pathway with accessible university or private rental sector accommodation, supplemented through substantial family support and frequent returns to the parental home (Ford et al., 2002). Indicators of this pathway have been found in research on native students’ housing experiences, as in the case of undergraduates in Portugal who remained at their parental homes when faced with an unaccommodating rental market (Cairns, 2011).

Such analysis, however, did not fully account for the diversity of student housing experiences. Fang and Van Liempt's (2020) study on international student housing experiences in Utrecht found that international students face structural disadvantages and discrimination in the rental market through their foreign and student status. Without family or friends' assistance, they quickly fell victim to scams, exploitive landlords, and unstable housing trajectories that resulted in homelessness. Most of their pathways were classified as chaotic ones and, in some cases, took the form of inverse pathways, where deteriorating housing conditions led to homeless or returning home (Fang & Van Liempt, 2020).



For this research, (rental) housing precarity has been used as the guiding concept for capturing institutional restructuring in rental markets and the housing experiences of non- European students. The following sections will outline the research questions, operationalization, methodology, and research design.

3.1 Research questions and operationalization

The guiding research question of this thesis is phrased as:

How have urban forms of housing precarity for non-European students structurally emerged in the rental markets of Amsterdam and Brussels, and through which strategies does this group navigate their housing pathways?

This will be answered through the following sub-questions that essentially correspond to the thesis structure:

- What role do characteristics of national housing regimes and local housing systems play in producing conditions of precarity through housing policies, rental market regulations, and tenure laws?

- Which differences in the student housing market can be found between the cities regarding institutional support and access to housing typologies?

- How does framing non-European housing experiences in the form of housing pathways and coping strategies illustrate rental precarity at the individual level?

A few definitions regarding the research questions have to be conceptualized. While there has been a call for housing regimes to be conceptually detached from the national level (Ruonavaara 2020), I will refer to a national housing regime, which captures policies and ideologies concerning housing:

the set of discourses and social, economic, and political practices that influence the provision, allocation, consumption [of housing], and housing outcomes in a given country (Ruonavaara, 2020, citing Clapham 2019, p. 4, 24)


The difference between regimes and systems is chosen to contrast better urban differences in housing outcomes as dynamics between governmental and municipal regulations. For Kemeny (2001), the organization of rental tenure is the cornerstone for analyzing housing regimes. Rental systems demonstrate "non-decisions" (Ruonavaara 2020, p.8) of states in choosing- or not choosing to provide alternatives to homeownership. Kemeny distinguishes regimes based on unitary or dualist rental market systems (Kemeny, 2001).

In unitary rental markets, private and social/non-profit housing from the public sectors are encouraged to compete in the market equally. Traditionally this has been the case in countries like the Netherlands, where rental housing by housing associations has provided a dominant alternative to homeownership. In dualist systems, where homeownership is prevalent, renting tends to take on a marginalized character, and public renting is tightly regulated and not seen as an alternative to free-market activities (Kemeny et al. 2005).

At the urban level, housing systems are formed of “demand, supply, and institutions, which interact in space and time” (Van der Heijden 2011, p. 302). The local constellations of household preferences, developers, commercial (for-profit and non-profit) or private landlords, and institutions, can lead to divergent housing outcomes (ibid.). Institutions then can be defined as "formal and informal rules, regulations, norms, and understandings that constrain and enable behavior" (Morgan et al. 2010, p. 2). These informal and formal arrangements and external factors like social or economic developments can lead to different geographical outcomes that can be explained through a comparative analysis.


Table 2: Operationalization of rental housing precarity

3.2 Research methodology

This research is qualitative and works through a case study comparison. Case studies are valuable "as a unit that permits in-depth examination" (Saldana, 2011, p.8). The first two research sub-questions will be answered through an institutional analysis of the housing system, where the historical institutionalism approach helps explain the critical juncture in changing rent regulation and the roles of universities and housing associations.

Transcripts of expert interviews, reports, and policy documents were used for the analysis of textual materials. For the third question on the housing outcomes of students, semi- structured interviews were used to question non-European students about their pathways and rental strategies.


3.2.1 Case study selection: Comparative and local level analysis

This research takes a comparative angle through a cross-country comparison of two capital cities while researching the common phenomenon of student housing.

Comparative research in urban studies works "for uncovering causal patterns of explanation" (Pierre, 2005, p. 449). For policymakers, too, it has become essential to identify convergences and divergences in research topics to understand the full range of societal problems (Krehl & Weck, 2020). Similarly, comparative urbanism is defined as

"the systematic study of similarity and difference among cities or urban processes. It addresses descriptive and explanatory questions about the extent and manner of similarity and difference" (Nijman, 2007, p.1).

This research follows Krehl and Weck's (2020) call for relational approaches to comparative research, for which "the cases' crucial insights into the phenomenon or causal configuration of interest” (p. 1868) are essential. The case of Amsterdam can be understood as a typical case (Gerring, 2007) as the researcher was aware of the housing shortage and position of students. A typical case "exemplifies what is considered to be a typical set of values, given some general understanding of the phenomenon" (Gerring, 2007, p. 91). The initial selection of Brussels followed the "most-similar" case typology (Gerring, 2007, p.90) in terms of the phenomenon of student housing precarity but has demonstrated the importance of contextual variables that account for divergences between the two cities. To some extent, this later realization follows the approach of "a posteriori comparisons," which focuses on comparing mechanisms of urban processes that lead to different outcomes rather than ideal types of cities (Montero & Baiocchi, 2022).

Principal considerations for choosing these two cities to research student housing are the following. Firstly, both capital cities accommodate significant numbers of young people in their rental market because of the presence of high-ranking educational institutions or the closeness to European institutions. The universities in both cities offer a large variety of English bachelor's and master's programs, which work to attract international students, and non-Europeans. In Brussels, this group makes up an estimated 25% of all international students (perspective. brussels, 2019). Additionally, in both cities, new housing typologies for students have evolved, such as co-living in Brussels and purpose-


built student accommodation in Amsterdam, allowing for the study of new housing typologies beyond shared housing and university dormitories.

Secondly, the two cities are part of different national housing systems. Brussels, as part of a Belgium housing policy favoring homeownership, has a unitary rental market. There the private rental sector is undifferentiated and non-regulated, as no rent regulation or housing allowances exist (De Decker, 2008). Amsterdam, as part of the Dutch housing system, which has prided itself on its strong social housing stock, has transitioned towards a dualist market (Van Duijne & Ronald, 2018). In Amsterdam, there is a robust localization of housing policy, and the rental market is highly regulated and segmented, with specific purpose-built accommodation for students and young professionals.

However, in both cities, there has been a normalization of short-term tenancies and decreasing tenant rights, making these relevant cases for convergences in housing precarity.

Lastly, regarding the geographical scale, the city level is chosen. While previous scholarship has focused on nation-level comparisons of housing regimes concerning welfare states (Kemeny, 2006), Hoekstra (2020) urged the importance of local housing system comparison. He argued that as national welfare states have been transformed into multi-level welfare states, housing policies have increasingly been formulated at a regional and city level.

3.2.2 Institutional analysis and expert interviews

A look at institutions reveals the guiding norms of societies and shows which behavior is normalized and supported and how things are organized. The definition of institutions used here encompasses “formal and informal rules, regulations, norms, and understandings that constrain and enable behavior" (Morgan et al., 2010, p. 2). For Streeck and Thelen (2005), institutions are defined through their obligation to deliver public goods. Institutionalism explains why and how some norms become institutionalized over others through power and legitimacy as they adapt to existing rules or develop new ones (Thelen, 1999).

Five stages have characterized the gradual or incremental transformation of institutions over time by Streeck and Thelen (2005). Within housing research, the category of layering and conversion is applied most frequently (Kemp, 2015). Change through layering is described as differential growth through the layering of new private systems on top of a


public system, where the growth of the former can diminish the political support or effectiveness of the latter. Conversion occurs when institutions are “redirected to new goals, functions, or purposes” (Streeck and Thelen, 2005). A prominent example within housing studies is Kemp's (2015) analysis of the revival of private renting in the UK that housing associations have primarily driven as (changing) institutional actors. He defined the emergence of reforms introducing new rental tenancies (layering) and the conversion of social housing to homeownership through the right-to-buy scheme and the conversion of homeownership to private rental (conversion) as critical junctures in the institutional transformation of private rental sector revival in the UK. As such, institutional changes in the housing system can refer to changing tenure policies or to the role of specific actors, such as housing associations.

As student housing organization relies upon multi-stakeholder collaboration and housing provision that spans the public, private and third sectors, expert interviews were used as an entry point to the field. The stakeholders were contacted through email; in some cases, snowballing was used as a method.

Table 3: Expert Interviews Brussels

Interviewed Experts Organization

CEO Quares Real Estate

Team member Student Life Unit Perspective. brussels

Housing researcher KU Leuven

Housing Officer Universite Libre Bruxelles (ULB)

Project Officer Team Vlaams Bouwmeester “Students make the city”

Legal housing expert and professor L'Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles (USL) Head of Team Housing Brik, non-profit organization Student Housing


Table 4: Expert Interviews Amsterdam

Interviewed Experts Organization

Senior Researcher CBRE

Housing Officer Vrije Universiteit (VUB)

Housing Officer Universiteit Amsterdam (UvA)

Policy Advisors Municipality of Amsterdam (Two different


Vice-Chairman SRVU Student Union

Vice Chairmen ASVA Student Union

Researcher Kences Abf Research

3.2.3 Housing pathway interviews: sampling & data analysis

Semi-structured retrospective interviews were conducted to understand non-European students' perspectives within the rental system. In each city, 22 students were asked about their housing movements, strategies, and reasonings interpreted through the housing pathway framework.

The group of non-European students was chosen as an insightful unit of analysis because of their unique position in the rental market. This group is i) usually not able to transition to homeownership and does not have access to social housing in the traditional sense, ii) cannot rely on their family home as a safety net, iii) embodies the "generation share/rent,"

and iv) is the target group of financialized housing investment in the form of PBSA.

Therefore, their position in the rental market offers an ideal lens to capture housing precarity and the flexibilization of tenure.

Regarding the interview participants, attention was given to creating a varied sample (Trost, 1986). The employed sampling method was purposive sampling. Purposive sampling lends itself when the aim of qualitative research lies in "increasing the depth (as opposed to the breadth) of understanding" (Campbell et al., 2020, p. 653). The two most important variables for this study were nationality and movement frequency. Nationality was purposefully selected towards the end of the study when a larger pool of people was available, and students of certain nationalities were sought after for maximum sample


variation. Requirements for interview participants were: i) non-European nationality, ii) current enrollment in a bachelor's, Master's, or doctoral degree at a university in Amsterdam or Brussels, iii) preferably minimum stay of one year in the respective city1And iv) at least one housing movement.

Due to the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic and specific sampling requirements, most interview participants were recruited through social media, particularly Facebook. There, posts researching for interview participants were published in housing-, university-, and Erasmus groups. Additionally, students with non-Dutch names were contacted through university group member lists, and messages to students with degrees in English from the UvA were sent through study advisors. Few candidates were found through snowballing or were master students from previous cohorts. All interviews were conducted in English through Zoom and transcribed by hand and partly with the help of the audio-to-text translation software

In Brussels, the interview period for student and expert interviews lasted from October until early January, and in Amsterdam, all student interviews were conducted in May.

Interviews with relevant stakeholders for the Amsterdam case were available from work in the previous year from the Urban Lab, so only two new interviews were added in May.

For both case studies, the total number of the sample reached 22 students each, with ages ranging from 18-to 28 and a majority being Master's students. Regions of origin most represented were Middle Eastern, East-Asian, and South American, with only one African participant. Participants were not renumerated for their time, and permission to record their interview was asked written and verbally.

For the analysis of the semi-structured student and expert interviews, directed content has been chosen. Directed content analysis has been outlined as one of three general approaches to qualitative content analysis (QCA) by Hsieh and Shannon (2005).

Qualitative content analysis is defined as “a method of analyzing written, verbal and visual communication messages” (Elo and Kyngaes, 2008, p.107), thereby “allowing the researcher to test theoretical issues to enhance understanding of the data” (ibid., p. 108).

Directed content analysis is useful when "existing theory or prior research exists about a phenomenon that is incomplete or would benefit from the further description" (Hsieh &


Shannon, 2005, p. 1281). The housing pathway approach is an open-ended and easily adaptable framework, therefore directed content analysis was used to test and extend the pathways and strategies of previous research. Similar to deductive content analysis, which engages in theory testing (Elo & Kyngäs, 2008), a deductive use of theory has been used for the coding categories that have been deductively formed from the characteristics of previous pathways. Common questions asked about reasons for movement, search strategies, landlord relations, rental prices, and their feelings towards their living situation.

Table 5: Student sample overview of Brussels

Characteristics of Interviewees (N =22)

Gender Female (N=9) Male (N=13)

Pursued program Bachelor (N= 2-3) Master (N=18) Ph.D. (N=1)

Length of residency 1-2 (N=11) 2-3 (N=8) Four or more

(N=3) Stayed in other Belgian cities Yes (N=3) No (N=19)

Short-term stay in social

circle Yes, with friends

or partners (N=6) Yes, with family and

friends (N=2) No (N=14) Living in another city now Yes (N=2) No (N=20)

Lived in university

accommodation Yes (N=9) No (N=13)

Total Accommodation 2 (N=7) 3-4 (N=10) 4-6 (N=5)

Table 6: Student sample overview of Amsterdam

Characteristics of Interviewees (N=22)

Gender Female (N=14) Male (N=8)

Pursued program Bachelor (N=9) Master (N=13)

Length of residency 1yr. or shorter (N=7) 2-3yr. (N=7) 4yr. or longer (N=8) Short-term stay in social circle Yes (N=7) No (N=15)

Lived in university accommodation (incl. PBSA)

Yes (N=14) No (N=8)

Total accommodation 2 (N=10) 3-4 (N=6) 5-6 (N=6)



To understand the context in which international students are moving, it is imperative to provide a structural contextualization of the two urban systems. In the following section, an overview of the housing systems of Amsterdam and Brussels will be provided.

Analyzing the historical evolution of the housing regime at large and the divergent ideologies driving the division between homeownership and rental housing is vital in considering the organization of the student housing market. Furthermore, universities play a crucial role in understanding the institutional support provided to students and universities’ role in attracting international students.

4.1 Brussels, Belgium: Housing regime in favor of homeownership

Belgium is a country of homeowners, and its people are famously described as ‘born with a brick in their stomach,' illustrating that homeownership is more than a material goal and is deeply ingrained in Belgium culture (De Decker, 2008). Urban development was stipulated by individual landowners and geared toward private homeownership of single- family dwellings (Tennekes et al., 2015), leading to the urban sprawl of detached or semi- detached family houses throughout the countryside (De Decker, 2008). Homeownership for workers in the rural parts of Belgium was seen as a disciplinary instrument of the Industrial Revolution, aimed at instilling anti-revolutionist spirits into workers by getting them out of the concentrated and low-quality workers' quarters in the urban cores. This was supported by larger policies avoiding urbanization (De Meulder et al., 1999).

Homeownership was the sole housing policy pursued by governments through construction grants, tax exemptions, social loans, and extra votes for homeowners (De Decker, 2008). Only in 1962 did a rudimentary Urban Planning Act come into force and combined housing policy with urban planning for the first time (Heynen, 2010). This has led to homeownership being the “sole sustainable housing alternative” (De Decker, 2008, p.156) in Belgium, and percentages of homeownership have evolved from 50% in 1960 to 80% in 2010 (Heynen, 2010). Not only in policy discourse but also in people's aspirations, homeownership is deeply anchored in culture and ideology (Meeus & De Decker, 2015).

According to Kemeny's (2001) differentiation of housing regimes based on the rental market, Brussels is an example where a dualist rental market in urban centers is evident,


219 million in tax deduction and regional support had been paid to homeowners, tenants only received 12 million for moving or settling costs, a mere 5% of the homeowner budget (Bernard & Lemaire, 2015). As De Decker (2008) argued, private rental legislation “lacks everything that is needed for a reliable alternative” (p. 156). Since in the Brussels Capital Region 44, 85% were tenants in the PRS, and 41,45% were homeowners (ibid.), this skewed support is particularly evident in the strong homeownership policy (Winters &

Heylen, 2014).

Social renting is not an alternative in Belgium either, with most units being built and sold as single-family homes (De Meulder et al., 1999). In the Brussels Capital Region, which has the highest share of social rental housing, the stock only reached 9,5% in 2008, making private rental housing the second-largest tenure in Belgium (De Decker, 2001).

As typical for dualist rental systems, two disparate markets, albeit a marginal social 'public' sector, have been created (Kemeny, 2001). While the social rental market is restricted to the most disadvantaged, the private rental market is mainly left unregulated, indicative of a "land of laissez-faire" (De Meulder et al., 1999).

Rent prices for new leases are not rent-regulated, qualitative living standards are minimal, tenant-based housing allowances are non-existent, and leases, so De Decker (2001), are insecure and temporary. In 1996, long-term contracts were already substituted by short- term contracts (47%), initially only emergency solutions, and contributed to free price- setting for new leases (De Decker et al.,1997). Private sector renting thus has come to be acknowledged as a transitional tenure within the Belgium housing policy (De Decker, 2001).

However, within the Brussels Capital Region (BCR), homeownership rates have stalled at around 45%, and the new housing supply is not catching up with the demand of young people, who are increasingly delaying movements out of their parental homes and living in shared accommodation (Dessouroux et al., 2016). In 2014 already, the Brussels Capital Region had shown the highest signs of a housing crisis in Belgium, measured by housing unaffordability, overcrowding, and an old dwelling stock (Winters & Heylen, 2014).

Prices for rental dwellings are the highest in the capital city, too, with the average monthly price for one person increasing from€520 in 2009 to €648 in 2019 (SILC Statbel, 2022).

Regarding its demographic composition, the BCR counted over a 1,2million inhabitants in 2021. It is a city of young single-person households (47%) partly sustained through in-


migration, as its share of 34% of foreign-born residents demonstrates (IBSA & Statbel, 2022). The share of students studying in Brussels was estimated at 11,000 in 2021 (Kotkompas, 2021), with 50,000 living in private rental accommodation and around 30,000 in student housing. A survey of more than 4,000 students in 2019 revealed a share of 25% international students, out of which 40% were non-European students (, 2019).

4.2 Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Shifts from a dualist to a unitary system?

In comparison to its Belgium neighbor, the Dutch dwelling and urban planning have been described as “neat, orderly and disciplined” (Heynen, 2010, p. 190). The Netherlands is well known for its significant share of social housing that has provided an alternative tenure to homeownership for all-income groups. Social housing is understood as housing managed and rented by independent not-for-profit housing associations (HAs) below the market rate. In the 1990s, at the peak of social housing presence, 55% of all housing stock in Amsterdam was social housing, and most new construction was driven by this sector (Van der Veer & Schuiling, 2005).

While the housing reform in 1989, "Housing in the 90s" (Volkshuisvesting in de Jaren negentig), only led to a slow decline in the share of social housing, it did “dramatically change the way this sector is governed and controlled” (Van der Veer & Schuiling, 2005), marking a shift towards a residual system. Housing associations became decoupled from the central government, and the 'brick-and-mortar' construction subsidies were abolished after 1995 (Haffner & Bouwelmeester, 2010). Instead, government subsidies shifted to tenant-based housing allowances for lower-income groups. With this shift, the state's role changed to indirect governance, merely creating the "policy frameworks within which local government authorities and private actors operate" (Hoekstra, 2003, p.65).

Housing associations had to become financially independent overnight and were transformed from administrative units of the housing policy to “business-oriented enterprises” (Salet, 1999). Their renovation and construction costs had to be supported by profit-making sales of the existing housing portfolio. Subsequently, the stipulation of homeownership in the Amsterdam became a priority (Boterman &Van Gent, 2014), and covenant agreements foresaw the sale of 40,575 houses until 2016 (Rouwendal et al., 2018), approximately 15% of the social housing stock in the city (Van Duijn & Ronald,


homeowners" (Huisman & Mulder, 2020), as homeownership in 2015 reached 57,4%

through the large-scale privatization of social rental housing (Boterman & Van Gent, 2014).

With the conversion of rental dwellings into owner-occupied ones combined with decreasing construction activity, HAs became more risk-averse (Van der Veer &

Schuiling, 2005), and their role in aiding the housing crisis decreased. Like Kemp (2015) found in his institutional rental market analysis, the changing role of housing associations in Amsterdam could be described as an institutional conversion (Streeck & Thelen, 2005).

Instead of dominating the rental market (Kemeny, 2006), housing associations were redirected to providing housing for those on lower incomes and adapted entrepreneurial strategies from the private market. Following Streeck and Thelen’s (2005) definitions, the differential growth of private actors in taking over new housing production and the emergence of new tenure rules (see 4.3) can be seen as processes of layering in the Amsterdam housing market. DeKey, one of the most significant housing associations that combines social and free-market housing for students, starters, and families, underlines this in their approach:

We can build our accommodation, and sometimes we also sell property that is no longer fitting our group of tenants so for starter incomes, or it is getting too expensive to renovate.

So we sell it to other cooperations, or sometimes it is going to the private market, and then we can earn a lot of money back that we can reinvest into new projects and buildings.

(Interview DeKey 2021 – Amsterdam)

While the Netherlands traditionally has been the prime example of unitary markets, in which the non-profit sector dominates (Kemeny, 2005), a drift toward neoliberal reforms has been observed (Huisman, 2016). In 2010, the Dutch government liberalized rental housing. A quality rental-point system (Puntensysteem) for calculating rents was adapted, which liberalized a large segment of the housing stock and introduced market value into the system (Hochstenbach & Ronald, 2020). Calculations were based on combinations such as the WOZ property value (Wet Waardering Onroerende Zaken), energy efficiency, surface area (Huurcomissie, n.d.), and until 2022 could reach up to 143 points as the threshold for liberalization. Landlords of this ‘high-quality segment’ are free of rent regulation (Hoesktra, 2003). From 2007 until 2019, the percentage of rent liberalized dwellings more than tripled, reaching 15,4% (Hochstenbach & Ronald, 2020). Today the central government only dictates the maximum yearly rent increase, which in 2022 was


3,3%, while rental agreements at large are seen as an agreement between tenants and landlords (Hoesktra, 2003).

4.3 Indicators of rental precarity in both cities

In the following sections, I will comparatively introduce rental policies and regulations for both cities, which I argue have contributed to the structural precarity that non- European students face in the rental markets. Addressed topics will be the marginal role of universities and housing associations in providing housing and the introduction of short-term contracts in Amsterdam and Brussels, and the last section, 4.3.3, will look more in-depth into the case of Amsterdam, arguing that a dualization in the student housing market has occurred in terms of accessibility and rental security.

4.3.1 Limited institutional support private sector partnerships through PBSA development

The following paragraphs will analyze the role of universities in both cities, and in the case of Amsterdam, also of housing associations, which provide the ‘social housing’ units of Dutch universities.

In Brussels the two largest universities are the Vrije Universiteit (VUB) and the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). ULB still owns six university dormitories from the 1960s, accommodating approximately 300 students. Housing shortages for students started to emerge in 2012, and the universities of Brussels started lobbying for more accessible permits for the private sector to fill this gap through new construction (Interview ULB, 2022). Similar to what literature on student housing in the UK and Canada has pointed out (Pillai et al., 2021), student housing is not one of the core competencies of universities, and no further budget of the ULB is set aside for the construction of student residences. Instead, outsourcing to the private sector is presented as the solution:

Yeah, so we are at the end of our capacities, and we think that maybe it is better to rely on the private sector to build student housing that maybe they have better prices and better ways of buildings than what we thought we could do ourselves.

We are trying to find agreements with the private sector. (Interview housing officer ULB 2022– Brussels)


as a ‘shortcut’ for the new housing supply. While the university pays the total rent for the units, they are leased more affordably to students for the university price of €420, including charges. They argued that this specific agreement with the private sector worked well because the developer could build on previously university-owned land.

Aside from this, the universities in Brussels do not have direct agreements with the private sector and only link their websites. Around 80% of university rooms are rented to Bachelor's students and 20% to Master's students. International students are only allocated up to 30% of the rooms, as ULB states that since the budget comes from the Belgian government, they are “not supposed to help international people, which is a problem” (Interview ULB, 2022).

Outside of university housing, students in Brussels can find accommodation through the social housing agency (AISE), which offers rooms at € 250 for the lowest income students, and through the French rental platform (PLE: Plateforme Logement Etudiant) for individual rooms. Additionally, students benefit from the MyKot room platform, which has a repertoire of 340 rooms from trusted landlords on their site. The platform was started by Brik, initially as a partnership of Flemish higher education institutions as a solution to offer rooms to Dutch students who were discriminated against in the rental market of Brussels. Nowadays, Brik acts as the middleman between landlords and students.

Landlords get benefits and continuous income streams from students, while students benefit from secure contracts and rooms of less than €500 or one quarter under

€500(Interview Brik, 2022). Under Brik, a new five-year valid student housing label (Label Logement étudiant) has been introduced, guaranteeing students verified and secure rooms (Service Public Regional de Bruxelles, n.d.).

Generally, it is relatively easy for individual landlords, the so-called "kot madame," to rent spare rooms with minimal formalities through temporary permits (Digit Student Life

& Stadim, 2021). Therefore, most students in Brussel live in shared housing with other students, young professionals, or landlords. The prices of rooms in Brussels average at

€400, and studios at €580 (ibid.). Individual rooms with shared kitchens and living spaces are the most common typology for purpose-built student accommodation in Brussels (Interview Quares, 2022).

Contrary to the Dutch case, targeted buildings for students or young professionals are not encouraged. Instead, these developments fall within the collective housing category and ideally should represent social mixing. With the adaptation of the regional land-use plan


(PRAS, Plan Régional Affectation du Sol & RRU: Le Règlement Régional d'Urbanisme) for the new master plan “Good living," densification and the introduction of new housing typologies such as co-living and PBSA will be encouraged (Smet, n.d), in line with previous land use regulations adapted for life-work developments (Uttyebrouck et al., 2020) In the new urban planning rules, a chapter on student housing will be introduced, regulating housing for students specifically (Smet, n.d.).

The market for international investors in Brussels has remained highly fragmented.

Belgian companies like Xior and Quares drive student housing developments, and institutional investment is limited, representing less than 5% of the market share. A lack of institutional investors can be explained through the following:

The lack of transparency in the market compared to other cities in Europe. We have here a very complicated legal framework regarding leases, construction, and permits. So that are the main three reasons I heard from international investors why they haven't invested yet. (Interview Quares Real Estate 2022 – Brussels) The ‘complicated framework' is due to Belgium's status as a federal country, where residential real estate investors have to consider three regulatory levels, each with its legislative system, namely i) the federal level concerning the Belgium Civil Code and Taxes, ii) the regional level of Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels Capital Region, where different housing codes and tax regime apply, and iii) most notably the municipal level, where each of the 19 communes has jurisdiction over permits and tax and building requirements (Osborne Clark, 2016). The lack of coordination on a regional level has resulted in the central municipalities publishing their recommendations on construction criteria to stop private investment and curb speculative behavior (Bruxelles. be, 2021).

In Amsterdam, on the contrary, a commodified housing market has emerged, marked by the presence of purpose-built student accommodation in the city. These PBSA developments are large-scale, vertical developments with many small units (often studios) and shared amenities. The municipality of Amsterdam has taken an active role as an enabler of this market creation through land-use and development contracts. As Uttyebrouck et al. (2020) argue, these developments marketed as shared living projects have been "repurposed by the market through the development of new real estate practices to meet students and young professionals' perceived needs” (p.1021). Projects that




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