Belgians bemoan the Dutch invasion

November 21, 2003

Inhabitants of Belgium's frontier villages are losing patience with students from the University of Maastricht who are attracted to the area by cheap accommodation.

Vroenhoven and Kanne - less than 5km from the university - are now home to 300 Dutch students, and mayor Jan Peumans of the municipality of Riemst, which includes the two tiny villages, thinks that is more than enough.

According to Mr Peumans, landlords who fill whole streets with students are harming the villages. "If we do not adjust the zoning plan, they will change every single home into a student house," he said.

Vroenhoven already has a zoning plan that allows no more than three students per house. Kanne will get a similar scheme soon.

Mr Peumans complained that the young Netherlanders did not add much to the local community and he would rather see "normal families" living in the villages.

"The students do not integrate," he said. "In a family you have children who go to school, the sporting club and the music association. That offers a contribution to the local economy and society. Students stay only for a year or two and then disappear."

Furthermore, families have to pay taxes. "That means a source of income for us," he said.

There is, however, a solution to the Dutch students' potential housing problem. Alex van Gronsveld, mayor of the neighbouring village of Veldwezelt, has no objection to Dutch students living in his municipality.

But at 9km from Maastricht, the bike ride is a little longer.

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