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.
The social housing rental system of The Netherlands
Social rental flats (‘sociale huurwoningen’) are owned by Dutch housing corporations. These corporations are private, but the government subsidies the construction of new houses via these corporations. There are 11 housing corporations in Amsterdam, but they all use the same online system to assign their houses: Woningnet.
To apply for social housing in Amsterdam, these conditions apply:
- The flat has a rent lower than € 652,52 a month.
- 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.
Long waiting list
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 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.
How to find a place to live in Amsterdam
1. Buying private property
As a foreigner trying to find a place to live in Amsterdam, you are left with few options. Firstly, you can buy a house. Keep in mind Amsterdam apartments are very expensive. 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 apartment prices is that in The Netherlands the mortgage you pay is tax-deductible (hypotheekrenteafrek).
2. Renting free market property in Amsterdam
If you don’t have the financial security to buy: 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, the corporation they work for pay their rent and so 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 €900 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 €652,52 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 witha small garden in the North of Amsterdam, across the IJ (Amsterdam Noord).
Know your renter’s rights!
Any legal rent can never be too expensive. Once you have moved in, you can have the ‘rentcommission’ 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 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).
Difference between renting privately and social renting
The financial differences between buying your own private property and renting an old social renting house are big. For the same (old) house of around €180.000 outside centre of town, you pay € 500 to 600 in mortgage a month. The same house (remember, unrenovated) will cost around €350 a month.
Still, these small crappy properties are in big demand, as the roaring prices of these apartments will sure to give you a win in the long turn.
Only around 15 % of the total amount of houses in Amsterdam is resale property.
5. Amsterdam flatshare
If you are a student or of that age 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 for Amsterdam flatshare: kamernet.nl, kamer,nl, kamerhulp.nl, easykamer.nl, studentopkamers.nl etcetera and sometimes newspapers have ads as well.
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 €500 – 600. 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. This 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.