Education RightRight To Shelter

Students’ “favela”: Istanbul


Click to read in Kurdish or Turkish.

Food with insects inside, ward-type KYK dormitories, private dormitories converted from houses that demand thousands of Turkish liras for only a single bed, or narrow, damp houses miles away from the university that is just about to collapse… Here is “our” favela.

These are the neighborhoods where the working class, unemployed in the city, or those who do not have a home, live far from living “humanely” in most regions, even without infrastructure systems, and where the beautiful lights of the city don’t illuminate. The last resort of “shelter.” The famous ghettos of the world are renowned for being located in the urban area, in other words, the other side of Brazil’s cities.

Now, look at the other side of Istanbul, to our ghettos, our favelas with flats all over our glittering city, which connects Europe and Asia, where as far as election campaigns memorize, we know that 16 million, currently 20 million people live.

Nearly 40 Students Per Bed in Istanbul

Istanbul, which hosts almost a quarter of Turkey’s population, has a vast range of university types. According to the Istanbul Governorship, there are active or inactive 61 higher education institutions, including state or foundation-owned and vocational higher schools. The number of students studying in 14 state universities, three foundation vocational schools, and 44 foundation universities corresponds to 29.71 percent of Turkish university students, almost one-third.

Again, according to the Istanbul Governorship’s data from recent years, the total number of students studying in higher education in Istanbul is one million and 834. The total dormitory capacity of the 21 state-owned dormitories in Istanbul is 24,651, of which 12,488 is for female students, and 12,163 is for male students. In other words, according to last year’s data, it is evident that the state-owned dormitory’s capacity is far below the number of active students. According to the Social Democracy Foundation’s (SODEV Genç) youth organization’s “Dormitory Problem in Higher Education” report, there are 32 students per bed in Istanbul.

In addition to last year’s data, with the abolition of the threshold, the number of those who took the university entrance exam this year exceeded three million, reaching a record number. Likewise, last year, around 690 thousand people enrolled in schools. This year, the number of students registered at the universities is about 850 thousand, excluding open education. In total, one million 5 thousand 490 candidates were enrolled in universities, with an increase of hundreds of thousands in undergraduate and associate degree programs. Considering all these data, we can say that the result for 32 persons per bed increased to 40. 

All these data are confirmed by the capacity increase news from the Credit and Dormitories Institution (KYK) dormitories all over Turkey, especially in Istanbul. While it is impossible to meet the current need with this number of dormitories, the KYK dormitories were prepared for the new academic year by introducing a bunk bed system, reducing the number of desks and cupboards, and doubling the standard room capacity.

Due to the living conditions, exorbitant prices, high inflation, and frequent price hikes, once the secondary or exclusively first-year choice of students became compulsory or even popular choice. Thousands of students on the waiting lists for KYK dormitories have two plans in Istanbul, as in the rest of the country: to find a private dormitory/apartment or rent a house.

Your Choice: Private Converted Homes or Dormitory-like Homes

With the steep increases in the inflation level within a year, the prices of private dormitories in Istanbul start from 22 thousand TL on average this year and reach 200 thousand TL. A single bed in rooms for six or seven people is rented for an average of three to four thousand TL per month in so-called “private dormitories,” where meals are not served other than breakfast.

Regarding the rising rents in dormitories as well as in dormitories; those who said “there is no housing problem in Turkey” during the resounding protests of the We Can’t Find Shelter Movement last year are trying to cover up the truth with false camouflages, such as the “housing crisis.” While the Minister of Environment and Urbanization suggests that those who cannot rent a house or stay in a dorm buy homes that they can’t afford to pay the rent, the average rental price in Istanbul quickly exceeds six thousand 500 Turkish liras. 

According to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s (IMM) Istanbul Planning Agency’s (IPA) evaluation report on the housing crisis in the city, rental prices for existing tenants have increased by 45.48 percent in the last year (2021-2022) in Istanbul. The rate of increase in new rental housing fees reached 161.4 percent. The average rental price for new tenants in Istanbul has reached six thousand 500 TL. It is said that if the increases continue next year, 85.1 percent of the tenants will not be able to pay their rent.

According to the February 2022 Real Estate Index Report, rental housing prices in Istanbul have tripled in the last year. According to the report, the country’s highest increase in housing prices was in Istanbul, with 149 percent.

“Our” favela

The student loan, 240 TL in 2011, was worth 153 dollars. The dollar equivalent of the loan, 650 TL in 2021, was 78 dollars. Today, while the loan is 850 TL, it is 46 dollars. Considering the country’s economic situation, inflation level, constant hikes, and high expenses such as electricity, water, and natural gas, the only option for students in Istanbul, which is an earthquake city, is to keep damp, 40-year-old houses on the -1 level for at least 4-5 people. It is only possible if they overcome the high tenant criteria barriers, such as paying a double deposit, working in corporations, and being married or in a family.

In its most basic form, the right to shelter is a fundamental human right that is safe, affordable, accessible, in line with human living standards, and safe for earthquakes and similar disasters. Also, it includes minimum living services such as electricity, water, natural gas, and internet. So let’s put aside dozens of international conventions among the hundreds of options in a quick Google search. The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey gives several references to this right, and the state’s obligations are detailed.

However, let alone the human dignity being a measure, the reality of sheltering hundreds of thousands of students who do not have exceptional advantages due to their class position in Istanbul is food with insects inside, ward-type KYK dormitories, private dormitories converted from houses that demand thousands of Turkish liras for only a single bed, or narrow, damp houses miles away from the university that is just about to collapse… Here is “our” favela.

Photo: Evrensel

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