For Germany’s students, the first of October marked the start of the 2017 winter semester. And for first-year students in particular, this is supposed to be an exciting new beginning; the moment they finally embark on the first stage of their journey into adult life. Unfortunately, rather than representing the start of a new adventure, for many the reality has been quite different, and stressful – all thanks to the shortage and cost of student accommodation. Two recent studies, one from Uniplaces (www.uniplaces.de), which interviewed 1,000 students about their experiences on the student housing market, and one from the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW), which analysed the student housing market in 15 of Germany’s top university towns and cities since 2010.
The studies’ findings? That it is harder than ever before for students to find somewhere to live and, when they do, they are having to pay more for their accommodation than ever before. Rents in Munich have climbed to an average of EUR 18.40 per square metre (a 53% rise over the past seven years), while Stuttgart’s students are now paying an average of almost EUR 15.00 per square metre (an increase of 62% in seven years). And these are net rents, i.e. excluding all service charges. Michael Voigtländer, one of the co-authors of the IW study, reckons that it won’t be too long before Munich’s rents break through the EUR 20.00 barrier.
Berlin: Still sexy, but no longer poor?
According to the IW study, average market rents for student accommodation have risen to well above EUR 10.00 per square metre in all of the 15 cities analysed. In Berlin, once known for its “poor but sexy” image, average net rents have surged by 70% in seven years. This is supply and demand in all its glory: The provision of affordable student housing has flatlined, as demonstrated by the 5,400 applications for a single, subsidised student residence in the German capital, while the number of students enrolled at German universities and technical colleges has soared. In Berlin, local students’ services is only able to offer accommodation to roughly 5% of the city’s 180,000 students. Thankfully, the situation is somewhat better in other major university cities, where an average of 10% of the student population can be accommodated.
Landlords call the tune
The Uniplaces survey asked students to identify the major challenges they have faced in their hunt for somewhere to live. One of the most frequent complaints (made by 49% of respondents) was that the housing market is not a level playing field. Landlords are not always keen to let to students, perhaps understandably, and will frequently ask students’ parents to act as rental guarantors. Almost a third of those surveyed (32%) also complained that landlords and rental agents took an agonisingly long tie to make decisions, and, when they did turn a prospective down, many failed to provide a reason for doing so. Only 15% of the 1,000 students who took part in the survey believe that landlords view students as desirable tenants.
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