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Germany's students struggle to find rooms

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-10-23 10:05
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A worsening housing crisis in Germany has left tens of thousands of students without reasonably priced long-term accommodation, or even space in dorms, according to student associations.

One group, in the central German city of Gottingen, has rented a hotel, so students can stay there at subsidized rates in the short-term.

Matthias Anbuhl, head of Germany's student association DSW, said the lack of accommodation, especially in big cities, is a "deplorable state of affairs" that has been getting worse for decades. He said the DSW manages around 1,700 dormitories across Germany that have a total of around 200,000 beds. But, he said, the dorms are full, and around 32,000 students are on waiting lists, the Deutsche Welle news agency reported.

Anbuhl said many students are 'couch surfing' at friends' places, or undertaking long commutes from places where accommodation is available.

Earlier this year, a study by the Eduard Pestel Research Institute in the German city of Hanover, said Germany needs around 700,000 additional apartments to meet demand. The institute said rents had risen as a result, as people compete for somewhere to stay.

In the southern German city of Munich, the situation is so bad, landlords are charging students an average of $760 a month for a bed. The German government's federal student loans and grants program offers up to $381 toward rents, leaving students with a lot to make up.

Jana Judisch, a spokesperson for the Berlin Student Association, told DW the association has space for 9,000 students but that all beds are taken and 4,900 people are on a waiting lists.

"Many students are moving out to the far edges of the city and even beyond that, into Brandenburg, and accepting the long commute," she said.

Germany has around 2.9 million students, which is 1 million more that it had 15 years ago. Student advocates say the government must keep up with the change by investing in infrastructure, and providing larger subsidies toward rent.

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur news agency said the housing crisis has been exacerbated by the fact that the number of building permits issued has been tumbling year-on-year, despite the country's growing population.

Government figures released this month show the 19,300 permits issued to build new apartments in Germany in August was 31.6 percent down on the same month in 2022. The total number of permits issued in the first eight months of 2023 was 28.3 percent down on the previous year.

DPA said developers are increasingly disinterested in building apartments because of rising construction costs and high interest rates, which make borrowing more expensive and leave them little room for making a profit.

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