University student accommodation problem growing

Students in Germany are having increasing difficulty in finding accommodation, according to a recent survey covering major university cities. In the majority of the cities examined, the housing situation for students appears to have worsened.

Already last year, Germany’s Student Welfare Service or DSW warned that the refugee crisis could prove a problem for students on the housing market because of more overall demand for housing. The DSW also stressed that rising student numbers were aggravating the situation.

The latest survey on student accommodation, commissioned by real estate developers GBI and conducted by the Berlin-based Moses Mendelssohn Institute or MMI, takes a look at all university locations with more than 5,000 students, 91 cities in all. The analysts claim that the housing situation is particularly tense in 19 of these cities, headed by Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Cologne.

Assessments are based on an evaluation of 23 factors, such as rent levels, statistics on vacant accommodation, student numbers including first-year student levels, and student migration.

Vocational education students, many of whom compete with higher education students for accommodation, are also referred to in the survey as a factor causing further pressure.

The result of the evaluation is summed up in a 'tension index' for all 91 cities that can reach a maximum of 100 points, with, for example, Munich at 79, Cologne at 76 and Darmstadt at 65.5.

“With this fourth scoring exercise in a row, we have also been able to demonstrate the long-term significance of trends,” says MMI Director Stefan Brauckmann. “Since 2013, the tension index has been rising increasingly across Germany, and is clearly above average in large metropolises and in the internationally recognised university cities.”

The situation appears to have become more relaxed in just seven cities. And despite the difficulties involved in finding accommodation, students still seem to prefer the most popular cities. Also, they are willing to make do with less floor space and poorer furnishings as long as the locations offer a sufficient range of pubs and cultural and other recreational activities.

Brauckmann also points to student migration as an important housing market factor. “Many of the traditional university cities are now experiencing a growing number of students coming from other parts of Germany or even from abroad and seeking courses at popular institutions. They are then unable to carry on living with their parents,” he explains. “And there is little suitable accommodation that they can resort to.”

Another development pointed out by the survey is that the housing situation is putting a greater strain on student budgets. This year, a room in a shared flat costs an average €349 (US$391) a month, according to the MMI survey, compared to last year’s €330, and rent above all appears to be on the rise in the most popular cities.

The latest DSW social survey states that the average monthly student income is €864 (US$968), with around 30% receiving less than €700, and 25% having more than €1,000 at their disposal. According to the DSW statistics, rent is by far the largest single cost item. The DSW survey puts Cologne very slightly ahead of Munich in terms of rent levels, averaging at €359 compared to Munich’s €358.

Michael Gardner Email: