PovertyRight To Shelter

Housing Problem in Boğaziçi

Gizem Sert

Click to read in Kurdish or Turkish.

Boğaziçi University students have housing problems because of rising rental prices and highly priced dormitories within the campus. Students state that KYK grants are not sufficient for their housing and food needs.

Rumeli Hisarı neighborhood which hosts Boğaziçi University students has the most rising rental prices in İstanbul. Rental prices in the neighborhood, which is preferred by students for its closeness to the campus, increased 290% last year and this year, they exceeded the 70% consumer price index (TÜFE) rate announced by Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK). In addition to rising rent expenses, dormitory prices within the campus also increased. 

We talked to Yiğit and Eftelya- Boğaziçi University Political Science students about rising rent expenses, insufficient number of houses and rises in dormitory prices.

“We excessively pay for uninhabitable houses”

Eftelya-who has been living in Rumeli Hisarı for 2 years, says “With respect to last year, rental prices in Hisar rose incredibly. I have rented my house before all those raises- that is why even though houseowners increased the rental price at the maximum possible rate per annum, it didn’t affect me. However, the rent we paid then – 2,700 Turkish lira,  seemed really expensive to us. Together with new rates, we saw that the minimum rental price has become 5,000 Turkish lira. Paying excessively for uninhabitable houses, we have been left in the middle of a shelterlessness crisis.”  

Yiğit underlines that even though the last consumer price index rate (TÜFE) announced by Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) was 73.5 %, rises in rental prices in Rumeli Hisarı didn’t reflect that amount and says “The last TÜFE rate announced by TÜİK was 70%. However, independent inflation searching groups say that it is 160% indeed. Rises in rental prices in Rumeli Hisarı are in direct proportion to the rate those groups stated. For instance, there is a friend of mine who paid 3,000 Turkish lira for rent before. In August, they have to move to somewhere else since their homeowner wants to rent there for 6,000 Turkish lira. For that reason, homeowners want to dispossess students. Otherwise, they can only make a 25% rise in rental prices according to the new code of law. Homeowners are a bit avaricious. It isn’t quite normal to rent an 80-meter-square place for 6,000 Turkish lira.”

There is no sufficient number of houses for students

In the Rumeli Hisarı neighborhood, rises in rental prices to such an extent don’t diminish the demands for houses for rent. That the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) gradually raises the annual quotas for admissions of students in Boğaziçi University  each year results in more  students’ coming to the neighborhood. Yiğit says “ Our department has offered a 40 or 50-student-quota to YÖK. However YÖK extended the quota to 90. And those people will not only study but also take shelter. One significant reason for the rising rent costs is more people coming here.”

Trustee Administration Have Also Raised the Dormitory Prices

The trustee administration of the university as a solution to the problems resulting from sharply rising quotas and insufficient number of dormitories, increased the dormitory prices. Whereas 6-person-room in the university dormitory cost nearly 350 Turkish lira last year, this year  it costs more than 600 Turkish lira. In addition, whereas a 6-person-apartment in dormitories cost 630 Turkish lira per individual, this year it costs 1,100 Turkish lira. About rises, Yiğit says “ Last year, dormitory prices were in a good condition. This year, the administration made a 70% rise and demanded 700-800 Turkish lira per individual for a 6-person-room.” Stating that students who couldn’t find a place in dormitories or afford to pay rent tried to live together with 5-6 people in a place only 3 people could inhabit, Eftelya says “Leaving aside the decline in quality of life, we can’t even live.”

Students Have to Work While Studying

Last year, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the President of Republic from JDP (Justice and Development Party) responded to the criticisms about 650-Turkish-lira grants and loans given by Higher Education Credit and Hostels Institution (KYK) and said “When we went into power, those grants were just 45 Turkish lira; shame on you!” Students say that the KYK grant which has risen from 650 Turkish lira to 850 Turkish lira this year, isn’t enough to satisfy their needs for housing and food. Students stating that they had to work in part-time or full-time jobs for studying in a university, are demanding their grants to be increased. Yiğit says “I have a grant which amounts to 1,000 Turkish lira. I could afford to eat and drink out early on. Now, my rent hasn’t risen yet but I can’t do those things because of rises in food prices. While the increase rate of rent is above the inflation, the increase rate of grants is so small in amount. They aren’t raising the grant amounts. KYK has risen from 650 to 850 and it has nothing to do with the real inflation rate. We claim the existence of a welfare state approach, but in a welfare state, at least, a grant to meet my need for shelter and food would be given. I can’t afford either with that money. I can’t manage. So, I work part-time. I am trying to sustain my life in that way. While studying, I absolutely have to work at a job. KYK grant doesn’t meet my food and housing expenses. I can also ask my family for some money. I work at daily jobs. I work as a private tutor and pollster.  I think a 20-year-old student shouldn’t do all this. My courses are also affected because of those circumstances. During the time I should study, I am at work.”

Stating that her houseowner will dispossess her soon, Eftelya says “3 people are living in a 80-meter-square house and pay 3,000 Turkish lira for rent. I pay it through the support of my family and my grants. For now, we can afford it but our houseowner insists on dispossessing us. If we rent a new house, it will cost 5,000 – 6,000 Turkish lira. Then, we will have to reduce food costs and meet our need for housing. Neither our grants nor our family’s income rise in the same proportion. However, rental prices so sharply rise that they can’t be afforded. We are bound to shelterlessness.” 

 “I don’t feel anxious while walking home late in the night.”

Boğaziçi students think that they have difficulties unless they stay in either Rumeli Hisarı neighborhood or university dormitories. Because of the distance between the campus and other places in the vicinity as well as difficulties in accessing the dining hall, library and other facilities of the university, they emphasize the necessity of living around the campus. Eftelya says that “The determining factor when I rented a place here was its closeness to the campus. Arriving the campus in 5 minutes without using any public transportation in  Istanbul where the transportation is hard, expensive and tiring is of great advantage. In addition, it minimizes the number of situations such as being late to the courses/exams because of reasons beyond control. After I began to live in Hisarüstü, one of the reasons that made me keep living there was its safety. All along the way, I often meet a friend or an acquaintance from the university. I don’t feel anxious while walking home late in the night. Besides, in an emergency, I can ask my friends living in the side street for help. Moreover, peace in the neighborhood is also an affecting factor. Most of the Hisarüstü dwellers who are not students are also respectful and peaceful. Lastly, we have the opportunity to access anything we need in the neighborhood.”

“Living a normal life has become a luxury”

Rumeli Hisarı which students flow into and even engage in auctions for renting houses is indeed a place of unplanned urbanization. Boğaziçi students who suffer from problems of humidity, soot and  scorpions coming out from bathrooms still insist on staying there. Eftelya explains it in that way “The neighborhood mostly consists of old buildings and slums. The neighborhood which was set in the period when Istanbul had large migration owns unique architectures and streets. Narrow streets, adjoined buildings and  complex roads  for saving space are characteristic features of Hisarüstü. Given that most of the buildings are slums or old, they can’t withstand earthquakes, either.  After all,  despite all those circumstances, both students and the dwellers of the neighborhood still keep staying there because it is a safe neighborhood where transportation to other settlements is easy.”

Emphasizing that not only housing but also eating and drinking in cafes and restaurants is really expensive, Yiğit says “Rumeli Hisarı, that is to say, the place where we as students live has unplanned urbanization. However, there are housing estates two streets far in the distance.  We can’t afford to live there. We are settled in slums. We highly pay for so little houses, unplanned architecture and 2-meter-square, gloomy places. There are  supermarket chains in the vicinity. There are cafes and restaurants which appeal to students. They are not luxurious but they still have extreme prices; they are so expensive. You cannot leave there without paying 50 or 40 Turkish lira. When we want to drink coffee, we pay at least 25 Turkish lira. That is to say, living a normal life has become a luxury.”

*June 2022

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