During the past few months, Observant regularly scrolled through one of the largest Facebook housing groups in Maastricht - Rooms/Kamer/Zimmer in Maastricht, with more than 40 thousand members – and ticked off the number of ‘flawed’ advertisements. The percentage fluctuated around 30 per cent.
An administrator of the popular Facebook group posted a survey last August: should he remove the Dutch only advertisements from the page? It appeared that almost nine hundred members were in favour, 530 were against. Then nothing happened.
Despite all the irritation on social media, Huurteam Zuid-Limburg (previously Housing Helpdesk, allied to Maastricht University) and the Anti-discrimination Service Limburg, (Antidiscriminatievoorziening Limburg, or ADV Limburg) have hardly received any complaints.
That is not very surprising. Students first have to know to whom they can complain, and then take the time and energy. It’s time consuming – because a trip to the College voor de Rechten van de Mens (Human Rights Council) is one of the options should there be any violation of equality legislation. Most likely, they wouldn’t get the room. “ So what is the point of reporting it, many will think,” says Rick Blezer from Huurteam Zuid-Limburg. He argues that it must be seen as “a matter of principle”: “You want to take a stand against de letting agent or landlord. You are going for the ‘greater good’.”
The problem is that this does not only happen to students and is obviously not limited to Maastricht. Discrimination on the housing market prompted the Dutch ministry of the Interior to commission Radboud University Nijmegen to carry out a survey. In its report from October 2019, avoiding risks was mentioned most often as a motive for discriminating practices. For example, an estate agent said to the researchers: “Those fears [by landlords] are strictly financial, nobody wants to be confronted with a huge financial setback at the end of the tenancy.”
Huib van Gastel from the Vereniging Verhuurders Woonruimtes Maastricht (VVWM) recognises this: “landlords make choices based on their experiences in the past. If someone makes a pigsty of your house, then the next time you will be extra careful. Nobody wants to have to constantly hire a painter or contractor, because something is broken again.”