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Newly built project Lieven and the Sorting Machine

Amsterdam as a sorting machine attracts a huge number of new residents, the majority of whom have left the city within a few years. This sorting machine is running at full speed, partly due to new construction complexes such as Lieven. An overview of these recent new-build complexes can be seen on Map of Amsterdam temporary housing.

Through in-depth interviews among residents of Lieven and Our Domain complexes, we investigate how young people end up here, how they live there, whether they build up a social network in Amsterdam and how this possibly contributes to establishing roots in Amsterdam. Who wants and can continue to live in Amsterdam?

The new-build Lieven complex with 1,200 homes, mainly with temporary rental contracts, is one of the many new-build projects that have been completed in Amsterdam since 2015. With the realization of a large number of this type of new-build homes, as can be seen on the map just mentioned, the accessibility of Amsterdam for newcomers has increased enormously. After all, almost all of these homes go to young people who enter the city for the first time, mainly for work and study. Since 2015, when temporary rental contracts were made legally possible, an explosion of new construction of residential complexes with small independent studios with temporary rental contracts has taken place.

The introduction of temporary rental contracts has not brought about any changes for students, because the campus contract was also temporary before 2015. Campus contracts end when the study ends. The number of students at UvA and VU has increased enormously by around 39% since 2015, and the number of foreign students has even grown by almost 140%. Residential complexes such as Lieven have made this enormous growth possible. ​


With the change in the law in 2015, the youth housing category was introduced, whereby small studios in the social rental sector may be rented out temporarily. Temporary rental legally means contracts of 5 years for housing associations and contracts of a maximum of 2 years for private landlords. The introduction of temporary rental contracts for social housing has created the youth housing category. The new-build complexes that have arisen in Amsterdam are often combinations of student housing, youth housing and other temporary studios. These complexes have made it possible for the large number of incoming students in Amsterdam to find temporary accommodation. Despite the fact that the housing market appears to be silted up and there is a housing crisis, around 90,000 newcomers will be able to move to Amsterdam in 2022. Temporary rental contracts affect the rental protection of tenants, but ensure that these homes have a rapid turnover and new newcomers can enter again. As a result, the average duration of residence of young new Amsterdam residents has fallen enormously in recent years, from 5.2 years in 2000 to 2.6 in 2021.

See also 'Duration of living in Amsterdam'



In May - June 2023, seven in-depth interviews were held among residents of the new Lieven complex in Amsterdam Nieuw West. This complex of housing association Lieven de Key includes 1,200 rental homes that were completed per new-build block in the period 2017-2023.


There are different types of temporary housing, including student housing, international student housing, youth and starter housing, artist housing and private sector rental housing. Student housing is explicitly for students, which means that once you have been deregistered from an educational institution you must leave the home within six months. These residents receive a campus contract. In addition to regular student housing, there is also a separate block for international students, who can also rent a home if they register with the University of Amsterdam. There are also youth and starter homes in this complex. You can register for these homes if you are between 23 and 27 years old, where the standard rental contracts are for a maximum of 5 years. There are 40 homes for artists, which are occupied by almost and recently graduated artists between the ages of 23 and 27. Finally, the private sector rental homes are rented to couples and families, among others. For tenants who live independently, this means that rent allowance can be granted. But this also has advantages for the developer/landlord; This means that a relatively high rental price can be charged for these small units.



However, there are communal and meeting spaces in the Lieven

residential complex. Including an outdoor space in the middle of

the complex and a so-called 'cultural community living room' run

by LOLA, a non-commercial social vacancy manager. There is

also a communal laundry and a library. Lieven de Key created

these spaces with the aim of creating a community. They have

appointed several community builders who, among other things,

organize activities for the residents.


But as soon as the study has been completed or the five-year

contract expires, a new home must be found. Many home

seekers over the age of 28 fall into a hole of uncertainty about

their future living situation in Amsterdam.




Backround and residential history

Even though 90 thousand newcomers will have settled in Amsterdam by 2022, it remains a major challenge for most people to find a place in Amsterdam. It was also a huge search for those we interviewed. The question is whether this search is easier for young people from Amsterdam and surrounding areas. These in-depth interviews are not representative, but it is striking that 6 of the 7 interviewees come from the Northern Randstad. ​


Most newcomers to Amsterdam start here with a temporary rental contract; in the private rental sector, in a youth home or in a student home. Many people then move from one temporary rental home to another in Amsterdam. On average, the interviewees have already lived in almost 3 different places in Amsterdam, while most have only been there for a short time. It is striking that those who grew up in Amsterdam and Oostzaan have already rented most of the independent homes in Amsterdam. For them, the place where they were born may influence their ability to find new places to live in Amsterdam more quickly.


Most of Amsterdam's youth, aged 18 to 27, were not born here. Inflow from home and abroad causes a deteriorated position in the housing market for Amsterdam's youth. The municipality of Amsterdam wants to strengthen the right to housing for this group, for which it has introduced a new scheme: if young people have lived in Amsterdam for at least 6 consecutive years in the past 10 years, they will be given priority for a youth home. From 2024, this will apply to half of all youth homes. One of the interviewees used this arrangement to come and live in Lieven. He is one of the first to benefit from this; Due to this priority policy, he was immediately on the first place at many homes. ​


The share of foreign students has more than doubled in the past 7 years and is still growing. A separate residential block has been created within Lieven for this group of students. A number of years ago, the municipality of Amsterdam made agreements with educational institutions about the construction of residential complexes for foreign students. For example, De Key has built other complexes outside Lieven, such as on Poeldijkstraat, that only focus on foreign students.

The question that then arises; Doesn't a complex exclusively for foreign students result in limited social contacts, which means that their integration in Amsterdam takes little or no shape?

The agreements on the construction of residential complexes for (foreign) students were terminated by the municipality in 2023; the new policy aims to strengthen the position of Amsterdam's youth. ​


Despite the large influx of domestic and foreign young people, the interviewees managed to get a home in the new Lieven complex. One person came here through the priority arrangement, the others saw via student housing web and housing network that this new residential complex was being built. The completion of this new construction meant that a large number of homes were offered at once; This makes the chance of getting involved extra high.


Social life in Lieven

All interviewees have lived in the Lieven complex for between six months and 4 years.

None of them have a good relationship with their neighbors. "Everyone lives past each other, there is no bond," says one of them. "When hundreds of students moved in at the same time after the complex was completed, there was a pleasant atmosphere and we lent a lot to each other. When most of them had settled down, that faded away." The participants say that they now almost never meet their neighbors and that they live next to each other. The social lives of the interviewees hardly take place in their residential complex and they have no sense of community. It's not alive. “It can be very anonymous here and there is little social control,” says one of them.


The community builders do organize a drink once a month, which a number of people attend. "If you really want to create a sense of community, you should do it much more often," says one interviewee. The goal of the community builders is for the large group of residents to form a close-knit community. In addition to activities for the residents, they are also concerned with the quality of life in the residential complex and connections with the people who live in the area. This also happens in various other new-build complexes.


The interviewees know some faces, including through these activities, but few real friendships are formed. Activities such as a cooking club on your own initiative are occasionally undertaken. Due to the mix of students and working young people, there is little or no student culture here; many residents already have a permanent job. This gives residents the feeling that people like to be alone here. "They are all single-person homes, which is why many assume that most people consciously choose this and are not looking for social interactions." This does not apply to the majority of those interviewed. They would prefer to live with housemates, but this is not financially possible for most, or they are unable to participate in residential groups due to the enormous demand for housing in Amsterdam.

There is contact with neighbors through a group app. "This gives a safe feeling, even though I don't know them, so I know there are many people around me," says one of the interviewees.



The temporary nature of housing has not stopped some of the interviewees from entering into social contacts. “I have no less committed myself to a social life, with the perspective: I am new here so I want to get to know a lot of people, not with the perspective: I will stay here for a long time.” One of them says that she is not concerned about the temporary nature of the contacts she builds here, even though that may be for a short time. ​


The social network of the interviewees mainly takes place outside the Lieven residential complex. They meet new people and build social circles through study, work, going out and sports. It is striking that these young people mainly enter into social relationships outside their complex. In contrast to student complexes, where students quickly tend to have their social relationships mainly within their complex, causing so-called 'bubbles' to be formed. The young people interviewed have formed more contacts outside the complex, which means they have more relationships with the environment and a broader social network. This can lead to faster roots in Amsterdam. Does a network outside their residential complex also give them a greater chance of continuing to live in Amsterdam?


Stay or leave Amsterdam?

The situation on the housing market makes it difficult to continue living in Amsterdam after a student or youth home. In Amsterdam, there is usually a waiting period of more than 10 years for social housing; private rental properties almost always have a rent of above 1,500 euros and the average purchase price of a house in January 2023 is 722 thousand euros. As a result, many people have to leave Amsterdam again after a few years. ​


Many interviewees share the perspective of leaving Amsterdam. About half want to leave Amsterdam when they are a bit older to live more quietly. The other half would like to continue living here and through smart use of the schemes they are able to continue living in young people and student housing for longer. They think their future is not bright. The unaffordable housing causes stress and uncertainty and some people are already seeing people from their newly built social network leaving the city.

Jaap Draaisma, January 19th 2024

Scherm­afbeelding 2023-10-31 om 15.37.16.png

Seven residents, between the ages of 19 and 28, of the Lieven residential complex tell their own story about their residential history, their social life within Lieven and beyond and their view on their residential future. This paints a general picture.


These residents have been invited by means of a flyer by email. The flyer was distributed by De Key to all Lieven tenants via the community builder. In addition, paper flyers have been hung and distributed here and there in the complex. The in-depth interviews took place on three evenings in Lieven's cultural community living room. The interviewees are not representative of the situation of all residents of Lieven, it is a probability sample. The personal stories of the interviewee are an illustration of how the theoretical reality of the sorting machine takes shape in real life.



Place of birth

Wants to stay in A'dam
















Living in Lieven

4 years

1 year

4 year

1 year

1,5 year

6 months

2 years

In a more quiet place


No, already bought a house

Yes, but very insecure

Yes, but very insecure

Wants to when starting a family

Wants to when starting a family


Houses lived independent








Working: policy official


Working: logistic Schiphol

Working: musicindustry




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