Housing crisis, 2022-23


The economic difficulties and housing crisis are ongoing topics in Turkey, and university students struggle too. With the increasing number of student quotas in university departments, the number of students increases each year but the state-owned dormitories are not enough to accommodate every student. As a result, students are left alone with high-rent prices for houses and private dormitories with not enough resources to pay rent. In addition to that, with the high inflation rates, those prices are very fragile, unstable and not affordable. Thus, some students have no choice but to stay in congregation-owned dorms which are cheaper compared to the others.

Enes Kara, a medical student in Elazığ, took his own life on January 10, 2022, due to the religious oppression he had to face in the congregation-owned dorm he was staying. A longstanding issue stayed on the agenda after Enes Kara and students from 72 different student clubs issued a statement for the improvement of the state-owned dorms and cafeterias on their campuses at the end of January 2022.

In August 2022, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Youth and Sports sent a notice to the governorships that they should place students in guesthouses and cooperate with NGOs when necessary to solve the housing crisis. Even though they were not stated clearly, the mentioned NGOs were also owned by congregations and they would be advised by the university administrations. In addition, the notice involved taking more “security” measures, such as increasing the number of X-rays and security cameras. These security measures were a way to monitor students, and the notice also stated that they should gather information about the student clubs and organizations. Without creating a “real” solution like building new state-owned dorms and defining an upper-limit for the dorm prices,  the government tries to oppress the students with increased “security” measures.

While the decision-makers gathered information on student activities, university students all over the country unfairly lost their dorms or houses. Two university students from Istanbul in August 2022 shared their experiences on the crisis.

A student, on the rental houses near their campus:

With respect to last year, rental prices in Hisar rose incredibly. I rented my house before all those raises- that is why even though house owners 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.” 

Another student, on their university dormitory: 

Last year, dormitory prices were in good condition. This year, the administration made a 70% rise and demanded 700-800 Turkish lira per individual for a 6-person-room.”

In November 2022, the Governor of Kocaeli stated they would place students in hotel rooms when necessary and they would not leave anyone out and they didn’t. However, students from the “We Can’t Find Shelter” movement in Kocaeli couldn’t find a place to stay. They started spending the nights in the parks as a protest. Students from the movement shared their experiences with the public authorities during protests:

            “I am pretty sure that the governor doesn’t know that my friend, Eymen D., who was waiting on the waiting list’s two thousand-something ranks last year, left the university because of the concerns he was experiencing.

            “Those who put us in this situation and forced us to live it are the ones who did not find a solution and kicked us out of the parks.”

Although cities and universities differ, the housing crisis is common among university students. 

A student in Mersin who didn’t get the chance to stay in the state-owned dormitory (KYK), tried to contact the governor’s office and the municipality who said, “We will solve the housing problems of our students,” and got no reply.

In the new year, 2023, the housing crisis of the students did not improve but worsened. 

The 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake did not only affect the students of the earthquake area but also the students all over the country when the government decided to place earthquake victims in state-owned dormitories. In the absence of the dormitories, education had to be online. It also meant the unfair evacuation of the students from the dormitories. Online education caused further problems, as many earthquake victim students lost their technological devices in the earthquake. Evacuated students didn’t have enough time to pack, some were given only three days. On the other hand, some dorms packed the students’ stuff into garbage bags. Students and human rights organizations protested the decision and rights violations done during the evacuations. 

The students of METU in Ankara were also victimized by the university administration, and their protests against unfair evacuation conditions resulted successfully. The rectorate called the student side to meet with the Department of Health, Culture, and Sports, to which the dormitories are affiliated, on February 22, 2023. With the efforts of the student representatives participating in the meeting, it was decided to open the dormitories to all students.

After the earthquakes on February, the university administrations started demolishing their dormitories without building new ones or finding alternative solutions for their students. Recently, two universities in Istanbul shut down some of their dormitories as they are not earthquake resistant. Additionally, Istanbul Technical University closed a female-only dormitory and allocated a mixed dormitory to male students only.

Bogazici University has also closed some of its dormitories due to the earthquake risk. While there are plans of building two new dormitories, these dormitories will not be administered by the university but they will be under the control of congregation owned NGOs. Since the construction of the planned dormitories has not been completed, most of the students couldn’t be placed in dormitories this semester.

Due to the hardship of providing an accommodation and the shortage of dormitories, many university student candidates state that they will not prefer a university in big cities.