Students in trouble due to increased energy prices: 'Friends move back in with their parents.'

Students are being overlooked when it comes to the energy allowance of 1300 euros. Meanwhile, prices are steadily rising. How are Amsterdam students dealing with this?

The Parool – October 25, 2022

Students are being bypassed when it comes to the energy allowance of 1300 euros. Meanwhile, prices continue to rise steadily. How are Amsterdam students dealing with it?

Ines Serhane (20), political science student, lives with a roommate in the city center.

“Doing something fun is now limited. It’s no longer like, ‘tomorrow, I can chill all day.’ I have to work four days a week alongside my studies, so all my other activities have a time limit. Since August, I have had a lot more stress due to all the costs. One condition of our landlord to get a permanent contract was a 25 percent rent increase. Now we’re at a rent of 1090 euros. That amount includes gas, water, and electricity, but I don’t know how easily that can be increased again. I don’t want to get into debt, but this is a lot of money. My days are intense; I work a lot and have to keep going. Sometimes I think about what it would be like if I had more time for myself, but then I get money stress again. It is what it is.”

Marijn van Rijswijck (24), artificial intelligence student, lives with a roommate in the Red Light District.

“We calculated what our energy consumption from last year would cost with the current price. We were already frugal consumers, and it would still be three times as expensive. That was the moment we bought an electric heater for 300 euros. If that has to run the whole winter, we’re still cheaper. We also asked the landlord for help, but we still run out of money. It’s very annoying that we don’t qualify for the energy allowance. Our costs are already very high. Our gas, water, and electricity bill is 300 euros. We live in an old house with single glazing. We have now put draft strips and aluminum foil everywhere in the hope that it keeps the heat in. I hear more poignant stories around me. Friends want to leave their homes because they are going up by more than 100 euros per month and can’t make ends meet. They are moving back in with their parents. Amsterdam rent was already expensive enough. It’s really messed up.”

Ayman Zinell-Abdin (22), PPLE student, lives with a roommate on Javastraat.

“Pasta with tomato sauce is now on the menu by default. Groceries are my biggest problem. I switched from Albert Heijn to Lidl, and I still have to pay attention. But I don’t drink alcohol, so that helps. My roommate sends me a payment request for the utility bill amount every month. That amount has doubled to almost 90 euros. Strange, because the heating is broken, so we can’t even turn it on. Plus, we already lived very sustainably before this price increase. We only wash at night, and the dishwasher only runs then too. I work 8 to 12 hours a week for the university. I only get that full amount paid at the end of the year. It means I have to learn how much I can spend per month. Our rent is almost 750 euros, excluding everything. I have to try to prepare myself as well as possible for everything on top of that.”

Coen Weber (23), international business administration student, lives with eight roommates near Frederiksplein.

“The beer cooler for our tap always used to be roaring. We quickly turned that off. Before the price went up, we never paid attention to our energy consumption; that’s different now. We live in a monumental building, which means everything is just more expensive. All nine of us have already gone up by 60 euros per month for energy costs. The basement is our kitchen and living room; we’re always here. But there are gaps under all the windows of the basement, and considering there has just been a renovation to the house. When it blows, a kind of sandblast is sucked in. There are now some slats in front, but that doesn’t help much. In terms of energy consumption, we are already at 4200 cubic meters per year; that has to go down. We shower shorter, and the lights stay off. It’s freezing in the basement in winter, but the heating is no longer turned on. So, wear a sweater or a blanket.”

Energy Allowance

The government pays out an energy allowance of 1300 euros to people with a low income. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment advises the implementing municipalities to categorically exclude students from this. The reason for this is the ‘diversity in housing conditions.’ An exclusion that is in violation of European human rights, as ruled by the Gelderland court after a student went to court there. From that moment on, the municipality of Nijmegen, like Delft and Zwolle, decided to pay out an energy allowance to students. The amount can be applied for once per address.

In other cities, such as Amsterdam, this is not yet the case. Legal Advice Wanted has started a petition against the exclusion with the National Student Union. In addition, they help students get the allowance through a detour: a letter by post with a request for the allowance. But according to lawyer Robin Bosch of L.A.W., the Amsterdam municipality responds to such a letter with a ‘refusal’ to make a decision. “Applying for the energy allowance and then objecting to the refusal is practically made impossible by the Amsterdam municipality.”

Various municipalities, including Amsterdam, have sent a letter to the ministry stating that they neither have the capacity nor the means to pay the students the allowance. A spokesperson for Amsterdam’s poverty alderman Marjolein Moorman says the municipality urgently asks the ministers to carry out the payment of the allowance nationwide.
“Everywhere in the country, there are students who are getting into financial trouble; it’s not just an Amsterdam problem. The municipality asks the government to come up with a scheme via DUO to compensate students for the high energy prices. According to the municipality of Amsterdam, DUO has a better overview of students than municipalities.”

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