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Capacity in dormitories is limited; house rents are high. So the gap between shelter and quality housing is gradually getting more expansive.
The housing problem, which occupied a corner of our minds before, rose as a crisis with the opening of schools after the pandemic and affected İzmir and Turkey. While many segments of the population are affected by the housing problem, it is possible to say the students’ experiences are the base of the demonstrations and main demands.
Even though students are aware of problems such as insufficient capacities, narrow rooms, and high prices during the process of returning to school after the pandemic, it will be helpful to talk about the situation of the cities to explain the crisis related to housing in detail, to think about solutions, and to become familiar with the processes that our friends who will move to the city and plan the housing process will encounter.
Only a 28.000-capacity dorm for more than 150 thousand students
According to 2021’s approximate data, there are more than 150 thousand students in İzmir, 13 universities, including colleges. Considering that the universities increased their department quotas, we should underline that this number will be even higher this year.
The available data show that the number of students and the existing accommodation areas are insufficient for students this year. For example, according to 2021’s data, state dormitories had a total capacity of 16 thousand, while private dormitories had a capacity of 12 thousand.
After the accommodation fee, only 90 Turkish liras are left in the student’s pocket
Following the rise of the students’ demonstrations on the housing crisis in September 2021, Metropolitan Mayor Tunç Soyer stated that they rented two new dormitories in İzmir, while various government institutions were converted to guesthouses, and students could move in temporarily. At this point, the effect of the intense efforts of the groups that carried out the We Can’t Find Shelter protests and how they revealed the truth with their action should be underlined.
While the students living in KYK dormitories in the new academic year are faced with a fee increase of 80 percent, the authorities seem to have found the solution for KYK dormitories’ housing problem, which cannot offer quality accommodation, by increasing the capacity of the existing rooms in a way that is not suitable in terms of quality and quantity. For example, only one month before the opening of the schools, the capacity of the four-person rooms in Çiğli KYK Dormitory, where mostly Bakırçay University and Katip Çelebi University’s male students live, increased to six people. The students living in this dormitory say that the current bathroom, toilet, and dining hall facilities are insufficient even for the former capacity, and there are long queues for the shower and cafeteria.
High rents versus limited-capacity dormitories
Now let’s go outside İzmir and look at İzmir Institute of Technology (IZTECH). IZTECH is another university with a particular structure regarding accommodation in İzmir. IZTECH’s campus is 52 kilometers away from the center of İzmir. More than five thousand students study at the school. Still, despite being so far outside the city, as stated on the website of the IZTECH International Relations Office, KYK dormitories allow only 1,032 students to stay close to the school. In other words, only 20 percent of students have the option of a state-owned dormitory, which can be affordable. Moreover, the school is outside of the city and has limited transportation opportunities making the limited-number-landlords in this neighborhood happy, unlike the students.
Our student friends, currently studying at IZTECH, say that rents for 1+1 houses in Gülbahçe, a village close to their school, start from four thousand Turkish liras. It is possible to see these prices on various real estate rental sites. Transportation to the school from the center of İzmir is challenging for students as there are not enough options, such as shuttles and buses. This situation does not offer students different options than housing options near the school.
Students at IZTECH do not only suffer from limited capacity dormitories and expensive house rents. For example, last year, students experienced a poisoning case in the cafeteria in the KYK dormitory. In this incident, nearly 100 students were hospitalized. However, the questions of the students protesting the incident about the cause of the poisoning and the what about of the cafeteria’s leasing company remained unanswered. Yet, a few months later, another poisoning case occurred in the university cafeteria, and many students were hospitalized again. In this context, it has been emphasized again and again by various groups that accommodation is not just about sheltering under one roof, and quality accommodation is a human right.
When we look beyond the limited dormitory options in İzmir, we often see that students unite for housing and live by sharing the expenses of a house. Bornova, Konak-Üçyol, and Buca are the districts where students prefer to live the most in terms of their proximity to schools. When we look at the opportunities of students who live in shared houses, it is possible to say that the average rent of 3+1 houses in İzmir exceeds five thousand Turkish liras. Even if students can find a place to lay their heads on, these flats are often tiny, unheated, and unsafe in an earthquake. On the other hand, the somewhat affordable houses are far from the school and the city center, while the students are left scattered around the city. As a matter of fact, the gap between shelter and quality housing is gradually getting more expansive.