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Hospi Housing platform matches students with modern landlady online


“The idea that you come here to study from abroad and then have to go back home because you don’t have a room — there must be a way to fix that”, thought Daan Donkers after receiving a slightly desperate letter from a lecturer. And he did something about it. Together with two friends, Daan set up Hospi Housing. It’s a growing agency that matches private lessees with students who are looking for a room. After all, with the sky-high demand for rooms, the “hospita”, or landlady, is making a comeback. This time, with a modern twist.

Seventy-five years ago, there was no large-scale student housing as we now know it. Students then lived in a student house belonging to a student association or they lived at the home of a “hospita” or “hospes” – a landlady or landlord. The first large block of student flats appeared in the 1950's and more followed. The landlady remained popular for many decades. Thirty years ago, in addition to the rental of its own large block of student flats, DUWO also had a room office that acted as an intermediary between students and landladies. Eventually, the landlady became less popular. But that is now changing. Private room rental is coming back to life. Hospi Housing is doing it with success.


Five years ago, Daan Donkers was studying public administration in Utrecht. He was doing a master in international relations, along with many foreign students. “Then I received a mail from a lecturer with the question ‘Can you look around and see if someone has a room to let? I have several foreign students here who have now been searching for months. They are still in a hotel, but they can no longer afford that. If they don’t find something soon, they will have to stop their education and return home.’”

Ana Lucia

It was an eye-opener for Daan: that the need for rooms was so urgent that some foreign students just had to return home. His own positive experience with a landlady abroad was the decisive factor. Daan explains: “I was doing an internship in Columbia. I found a room by an older woman there. She was called Ana Lucia; she lived alone, had a free room, and found it sociable to have a young person in her house. And that worked very well. A very good connection developed, a sort of friendship, and it was also nice that I had someone who could show me my way around a strange country. I thought: Does this also exist in the Netherlands? Then I looked into the situation. It had worked well in the past, students renting rooms from landladies. I heard from many parents and other people of that generation that they had also rented a room from a landlady during their study. I thought, if it worked then, maybe it can also work now.”

Municipalities and universities

After he had graduated and gotten a job, Daan started a pilot with his friends Joost Bokkers and Maurits Barendregt to house students with landladies. “We called on municipalities and universities to ask if they wanted to collaborate”, he said. “They responded very positively. Partly using a budget from the municipalities and universities, we started a campaign to recruit students and landladies, initially in Utrecht. Students were very easy to find. To recruit landladies, we mainly used flyers and newspaper articles. We quickly made our first five matches, and then COVID struck. Thankfully, we still had our jobs. It didn’t get going again until 2021, and we immediately started to expand. Leiden, Amsterdam and Maastricht were added. And we are currently talking with municipalities and educational institutions in Nijmegen and Eindhoven. We have also spoken with the municipality of Delft. We still want to see TU Delft.”

Online chatting

In the meantime, Hospi Housing is going well and has some 500 landladies, and also some host families, in their portfolio. There are no subscription costs. As Daan explains, “It’s a ‘no cure, no pay’. Students only pay a one-off fee if they find a room through us, which we naturally can’t guarantee. They can chat online with the landladies and make their own agreements and arrange everything, but we verify everything in advance. We check that there are no scammers or swindlers, that everything is in order, and that it is affordable. We also personally meet the landladies and offer guidance with the situation.”

No to mashed potato stew, yes to tea

Where many students may associate the landlady of earlier times with old grey ladies, strict rules and a required dinner of mashed potato stew when called, that certainly does not apply to the present-day landlady. “Dutch students, in particular, have the idea that a room at a landlady’s home is a little dopey”, says Daan. “But in this day and age there are many different types of people who offer a room. They are also not the type who would just offer a room on Facebook or Airbnb. Actually, we see many of the same motives as previously: they have an available room and can alleviate the housing shortage for students, they themselves have children studying abroad and so they know how it is, or they’re in it for the social component: they just find it pleasant. And also because of cultural motives, to learn something about another culture. Or, for example, with the host families that we also have: your children come into contact with a different culture and pick up a bit of a foreign language.”

However, Daan sees that this type of student housing is especially positive for both parties. “And no, it is really not true that landladies put demands on students living in their home. At most, it involves drinking a cup of tea with them now and then. Other house rules are mutually agreed. And in some host families, they enjoy eating together, for example, once per week. Should problems nevertheless occur, we are here to mediate. But actually, we only hear very positive experiences.”

More foreign students

Because of the gigantic room shortage, but also due to the prejudices that Dutch students often have about landladies, Hospi Housing initiates a lot of mediation for foreign students, in particular. “But we also do this for Dutch students”, Daan says. “The ratio is now about 80-20. That we match so many foreign students is mainly because it is just that much more difficult to find a room than it is for Dutch students. After all, it’s difficult for them to already search here from abroad, and they also have no network at all here. What’s more, in many of the countries where they are from, it is very normal as a student to live with a landlady. That is different in the Netherlands.”


If you are interested in a landlady’s room, you can take a look at the Hospi Housing website.

Private persons who want to rental a room to a student, can contact us via There is also a great deal of information there about how it works. By the way, a considerable amount of the income from letting rooms is tax-free.


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