Turkish students protest as rent prices skyrocket Global Voices

A screenshot of Euronews report on student protesters.

Turkish universities will resume face-to-face classes in October. But as students prepare to return to school, they face a housing crisis – there aren’t enough dorms and rent prices have skyrocketed amid the pandemic, leaving many homeless people.

In order to resolve this crisis, a group of students launched the Homeless Movement. Their demand is clear, to support students by lowering housing prices and rents. In demonstration, students also camp in urban parks in cities across the country.

According to data from the Higher Education Council, there are in total more than 8.2 million university students enrolled for the 2020-2021 academic year in Turkey, while there are only 769 dormitories that can accommodate 719,567 students.

There are two types of dormitories in Turkey, public and private. While public student housing is more affordable, demand is high and it is difficult to find a place.

“I asked for a room in the dormitory of my school, but there was no more room”, Explain Olcay Atik, a 22-year-old chemistry student from Bogazici University, in an interview with Middle East Eye. Atik was paying 700 Turkish liras (US $ 81) for rent on a shared house last year. But this year Atik’s rent has gone up. “I live in a damp apartment and have to pay 1,800 lire (208 US dollars) every month,” he said. The net monthly minimum wage in Turkey is around 2,825 lire (382 US dollars), and students are not the only ones suffering from the shortage of affordable housing.

Over the past year, apartment prices have increased by 55 percent on average among double digit inflation which peaked in August, reaching 19.25 percent.

Several factors explain the high inflation, according to to economist Mustafa Sonmez. Those “ossifying dynamics”Include a Turkish economy heavily dependent on imports; foreign investors who are wary of Turkey’s growing instability; a national currency in constant depreciation; and a central bank which stay under surveillance Of the president.

Due to these factors, the surge in property costs in Turkey is not surprising. According to a report from Middle East Eye, the construction industry in Turkey relies heavily on imported building materials which have seen their prices rise unprecedentedly. The exit reported:

Construction spending quadrupled due to [the] high inflation rate and the loss of the Turkish lira, which has depreciated 45% against the US dollar since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Some construction companies recently said they would stop working because they couldn’t afford the cost of materials. For example, a ton of cement cost around 160 lire ($ 19) last year when it is now 500 TL ($ 60). The Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) also released figures showing that total construction spending rose 42.5% in one year.

According to at the Space Justice Center, only 2 percent Istanbul’s rental property market is available for people with minimum income.

To curb price hikes, the government is reportedly considering a new rental model similar to that applied in parts of Europe, ”the pro-government Daily Sabah reported on September 14. Rather, the model would involve companies leasing properties under contract. of private owners renting real estate.

According to Funda Gökgel, board member of TÜYİSEN (Union of All Dormitory Employers), the housing crisis is unique to this year. In a maintenance with the BirGun newspaper, Gökgel explained that because the government did not allocate many benefits during the pandemic, many private dormitories were forced to close and more were not added. This loophole and the lack of controls have allowed hotels, hostel owners and property owners to raise prices, leaving people with few options.

One solution is to open guesthouses owned by public bodies to students and buy hotel services, suggest Gökgel. “There is the State of Hydraulic Works, the Police, the Army, Teachers’ Housing. At least some arrangements need to be made this year. You can’t just open a new space in one day in [the] private sector, ”Gökgel explained in an interview with BirGun newspaper.

Meanwhile, on September 16, President Erdogan promised to cope with soaring rents. “We are well aware of the cost of living problems caused by inflation. We will prevent excessive price increases on the shelves by bringing inflation under control as soon as possible, cutting costs and fighting opportunists, ”President Erdogan said when speaking to traders in the central Anatolian city of Kirsehir, according to the report. report by Bloomberg.

The leader of the main opposition party, Kemal KılıçdaroÄŸlu, offered a faster solution – promising to turn the presidential palace into a dormitory:

[To Erdogan] Until now, I was thinking of turning your palace into a university. Now, I’m going to think about transforming it into a dormitory too! I will give them back everything that was stolen from the youth. I will compensate for your misdeeds and your extravagances.

In the meantime, the Homeless Movement encourages its supporters to sign a petition “aimed at stimulating legislative action that would bring down exorbitant rent prices.”

On September 19, during a demonstration in one of Istanbul’s parks, the group shared their goals:

We are university students returning to their campuses after two years. We find ourselves homeless due to insufficient capacity of public dormitories and high prices of private dormitories.

If all the opportunities we have to live a decent and humane life are taken away from us, we will create those opportunities ourselves. This is why we are meeting. To make our voices heard, we gather on benches in the parks of your neighborhoods.

So far, the group has garnered public support and sympathy:

The people of Kadıköy [neighborhood in Istanbul] brought soup to the students protesting today. Even though it is late, citizens continue to support those who claim not to find refuge.

So far, sit-ins have been peaceful, except in Ankara, where nine students were arrested, according to the Duvar Gazette.

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