Student housing localisation in Ghent

In the city of Ghent there are currently living around 258.000 ‘de jure’ (meaning that they are registered as ‘Ghentians’) However, this does not include every person who is passing through, studying or commuting in Ghent. A large number of students stay in Ghent overnight, but aren’t registered in Ghent.

In order to adapt the city services to the ever changing “city user groups”, it is essential that the civil servants know how many citizens are living, working, studying, shopping, … in Ghent. With this knowledge, the city administration is able to make concrete decisions in the function of the “city users”, without ignoring the diversity within the city users.

For example, if the city wants to construct and build new student residencies, it is essential that the policy makers know what the specific needs of the civilians are. When planning decisions like this, policy makers don’t always know what the impact will be on the different ‘unknown’ city users, which can result in bad planning and decision making. The lack of data on some of the different ‘groups’ in the city makes it difficult to provide these urban services in a more effective way.

Challenges encountered:

In Ghent there were several challenges that were faced for this case. The biggest challenge was related to the collection of the necessary data for this case. Many of the wanted/needed data is privately owned (by the educational institutions, energy or telecommunication companies, public transport company…) and is difficult (or even impossible) to obtain.

Another significant challenge that Ghent faces, was a quality-related problem. Most of the student-related datasets are incomplete or not very systematic. For example, the student addresses list of the functionary responsible for prevention and safety: This list/dataset only contains the cases that were treated by this servant.


  • City of Ghent
    • Housing department: problem owners. The housing department has great interest in knowing all (or at least more as they know now) the student housing locations.
    • Data & Information unit: coördinating discussions between the departments about this topic and searching for possible data sources
  • Telecommunication providers: the city of Ghent is in discussion with Proximus, the local telecommunication provider. The goal here is to obtain a test sample of data and to investigate the options of using this data to locate the students’ houses.
  • Educational institutions: some (but not all!) of the educational institutions share their list of student housing locations with the city.

Actions steps:

  • Negotiation internally with civil servants across the different departments
  • Negotiation with telecommunication providers to start testing with a sample of the dataset.
  • Investigation in scraping data from social media (twitter and facebook).
  • Further testing with telecommunication data

Lessons learned:

At this stage it is still early to identify lessons learnt, but it can be stated that one of biggest challenges is to collect data from different services and companies that are not always willing to collaborate.

Outcome impact:

Work in progress


  • Housing inspection list: data from civil servant who inspects student housing.
  • Prevention and safety list of student addresses.
  • Student housing list from some of the educational institutions
  • Terrain survey student housing (2017)
  • Telecommunication data proximus

In the future, Ghent wants to obtain the following datasets:

  • Telecommunication data of Proximus
  • Energy usage data

Leave a Review.

You must be logged in to post a comment.