Finding a flat in Amsterdam is not the easiest thing. Most houses in Amsterdam (some 50%, 200.000 Amsterdam apartments) are part of a social rental system. As a newly arrived foreigner it’s impossible to make your way into this system. And once your’e in, waiting lists are at least 13 years. Here is an explanation of the system and ways to find an affordable flat in Amsterdam.
How to find a flat in Amsterdam?
1. How to find a social housing flat in Amsterdam
Social rental flats (‘sociale huurwoningen’) is the cheapest housing available in Amsterdam. Social housing are owned by Dutch private housing corporations. The Dutch government subsidizes the construction of new social rental houses via these corporations. The rent of a social housing flat in Amsterdam can be max. €710 per month. Obviously, these houses are in big demand. Prices are not decided by the demand though, but by a system of awarded points.
There 11 housing corporations in Amsterdam all use the same online system to assign their houses: Woningnet.
To apply for social housing in Amsterdam, these conditions apply:
- Only people with an income lower than € 36.156,- can apply for a social renting house.
- Only people with a ‘connection’ with Amsterdam can rent. Either they have a job here or have lived in Amsterdam for over 7 years.
- You must be a Dutch or EU-resident or valid resident permit.
Waiting list for social housing in Amsterdam
Amsterdam social rental houses are much in demand. The rent is much lower than in the free market and once people get their hands on a social housing flat in Amsterdam, they hardly ever move out. Even if they start earning higher wages, a renter in Amsterdam cannot never be forced to leave their house.
Also, in recent years, the Amsterdam social housing corporations have been in financial difficulties. The Dutch government is asking them for a large sum of money per house because of the misuse of government spending spree in the past. As a result, many Amsterdam corporations are selling off a part of their social housing.
To find a social renting flat in Amsterdam, register, and then expect to wait more than 13 years.
History of Amsterdam housing
The high amount of social renting flats in Amsterdam is a remainder from the 80s when the city had to construct new houses very quickly, because of a shortage in houses. Almost all newly constructed houses (95%) were social rentals. Nowadays, only 30% of newly constructed houses in Amsterdam are social rentals. The Netherlands has the highest amount of social rental flats of the entire European Union.
2. Buy a house in Amsterdam
As a foreigner trying to find a place to live in Amsterdam, you are left with few options. If you have a good job, a property and money, you might be able to buy a house. Amsterdam apartments are in high demand. Like everywhere in popular cities, houses are very expensive. Houses in Amsterdam area also small. Be happy when you find a house of 65m2 of € 248.000 (2017).
You can check out the prices on any house sellers website to give you an idea. (In Dutch: makelaar) At funda.nl houses on the market for sale are listed.
One important reason for the high housing prices is that in The Netherlands the mortgage you pay is tax-deductible (hypotheekrenteafrek). The Dutch government is trying to decide if and how to change this.
2. Renting free market property in Amsterdam
If you don’t have the financial security to buy then you can always rent an apartment in what is known as the ‘free market sector’ (vrije sector huur). These ‘liberalised’ apartments have no limits to rent prices. The prices of these apartment are set by supply and demand.
Amsterdam is a popular city to live and so, like in any major city, demand for rental apartments is high in Amsterdam. Prices are driven up further by expats. Expats live in Amsterdam only for a short period. Often, they can afford to pay a much higher rent than the locals.
Finding a flat to rent in Amsterdam
There are different channels you can use to look for rented flats or rooms like word of mouth, university notice boards and Facebook groups. Rentals sites also offer apartment and room to rent in Amsterdam. For example, Nestpick is a meta-search engine for flats and rooms for rent in Amsterdam. You can browse most offers on their site and even create alerts for when a new property gets listed. Pararius.nl and Directwonen .nl offer similar services.
Expect to pay over €1200 per month for a rental ‘free sector’ apartment in Amsterdam.
3. Low rent flats in Amsterdam (below €652)
To find a cheap place to live in Amsterdam, you may try finding a private home owner who will legally rent you a flat below the €700 limit. They do exist. Really. They do. But it takes more ‘knowing people’. Don’t expect anything in the centre of town. But if you look well enough, you might find something: a spacious flat in South-East (Zuidoost) or something with small garden in the North of Amsterdam, across the IJ (Amsterdam Noord) or Amsterdam Nieuw West (Osdorp).
Know your renter’s rights!
Any legal rent can never be too expensive. Once you have moved in, you can ask the ‘rent commission’ to check out your new apartment (only within the first 6 months in the free sector) and calculate whether you are not paying too much for your apartment.
If you are, the owner is legally bound to lower the rent!
You can also first calculate the price of your new place yourself. Read more on this website (in Dutch).
Also, once you are paying rent to someone, whether it’s with or without a contract, after some time, they cannot kick you out anymore. The longer you have lived in the flat, the more renter rights you have to continue living there. If you have any problems with the landlord, seek assistance from the ‘rental team’ (huurteam) of your area (‘wijksteunpunt‘).
4. Renting a sublet flat in Amsterdam
Your next best bet is to delve yourself into the adventurous world of illegal sub-letting. Generally, these are weird and sometimes not so weird people renting out their social rental flat, or just a room, to make some extra income.
Usually this is done illegally because the owner receives welfare from the state and looses this subsidies if the state finds out he or she has an extra income subletting a room.
You might get lucky finding someone who is leaving The Netherlands for work or travel for a few months, leaving an apartment to housesit, not charging you the knickers off your ass (Dutch expression).
If you rent from a sub-letter, it becomes difficult to register in the city. Renting a sublet flat is really only a temporary solution. But you still have rights (see above: know you renter’s rights).
5. Sharing a flat
If you are a student or don’t mind sharing a flat in Amsterdam, you can try renting a small room and share the rest of the house. In Dutch we call this ‘kamer huren’ (rent a room). Many websites advertise to share a flat. It used to be only students who share a flat in Amsterdam, but due to the housings shortage, working people have also started to share.
Check out site like kamernet.nl, kamer,nl, kamerhulp.nl, easykamer.nl, studentopkamers.nl etcetera to find a shared flat in Amsterdam or find a friend to share with first and then start looking for an apartment.
Due to the very limited supply of shared flats in Amsterdam and high demand, prices for flat share are high. For a bedroom (slaapkamer) you pay around € 600 – 700. If the price is much lower, be very attentive, because it probably means it’s a scam.
There are many ‘agencies’ that advertise with ‘room for rent, Nieuwmarkt, 20m2, €300’ and when you go the office to check it out, that room has ‘just been rented’ and then you have to pay to register and something similar will never come up again.
6. Squat and anti-squat
Lastly, I must include squat and anti-squat as an option. Squatting is breaking an entry into an empty building (office, school etc) to live there. Squatting in Amsterdam has been illegal since 2010, but it still exists. You can ask for help at the so called ‘kraakspreekuur‘ at many different squats in Amsterdam.
Anti-squat companies or, in Dutch, anti-kraak are those (some say evil) companies that look for people to move into an empty building (usually an office of old school) to prevent it from being squatted. Anti-squatters have no rights at all. The company will let you know only one month in advance that you have to move out. This is clearly stated in the contract you sign. But, it’s very cheap. You only pay electricity. There is no furniture and you’d better not invest too much in decoration any way, because it’s possible you’ll be out on the streets again in a short while. It’s popular though, especially among students, so there are waiting lists.