SHARE
COPY LINK

HOUSING

Foreign students camp out in housing protest

Homeless students enrolled at Stockholm University are camping out in campus grounds after having exhausted all alternatives and to protest at the lack of accommodation offered them on arrival in Sweden.

Foreign students camp out in housing protest

“There are around ten students currently camping. This by no means how many are in fact homeless – it takes a lot of courage to come to terms with being homeless, and to live in a tent,” said Kyle Verboomen, who is engaged as international student coordinator at the Stockholm University student union, to The Local on Tuesday.

Verboomen said that many students arriving at Stockholm University for the autumn term were misled to believe that accommodation would be made available but when they arrived found that this was not the case.

“There is simply not enough room in the pot. I would say to the university – do not admit students that you can not house,” he said, arguing that a coordinated approach is required to ensure that all departments are giving out accurate information over the situation.

The student union has responded to the situation by providing tents for homeless international students as a last resort, and as a protest to push the university to act.

The union has urged Stockholm residents to get in touch if they are able to offer a room, a couch, or floor space to needy students, even if only for a short period of time.

“It is not nice for the international students to be camping out, by a public walkway and with all the Swedish students walking past and seeing them there,” Verboomen said.

Housing shortages are a common feature of student life in several Swedish cities, but in Stockholm the problems are exacerbated by a rental housing market that exists in name only.

More than 300,000 people are waiting in line for a rental contract in the capital, home to around 2 million people. While this doesn’t mean that as many are in fact homeless, a large number live in unstable sub-let arrangements, leaving slim picking for groups, such as international students, who arrive for short term stays.

The queue for student apartments in Stockholm has increased dramatically over the past few years to 50,000 people for a housing stock of only 8,000 dwellings.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HOUSING

INTERVIEW: International students ‘vulnerable’ to Swedish housing shortages

People moving to Malmö to study now have to wait as long as a year to receive accommodation, Milena Milosavljević, the president of the Student Union in the city, has told The Local. The situation, she says, is "urgent and acute".

INTERVIEW: International students 'vulnerable' to Swedish housing shortages

The Sofa Project, run by the Student Union Malmö, received 80 applications this year from students who wanted to rent short-term accommodation, showing just how acute the current housing shortage is.

These 80 applicants were vying for one of seven spots, ranging from a spare room to a sofa bed – from hosts who sign up to offer their spaces to new arrivals.  As the programme only had seven hosts registered this year, the project had to close its application page to others, otherwise the number would have surpassed 80.

“They are ready to come to Malmö and sleep on a sofa bed at a stranger’s house before they find accommodation,” Milosavljević told The Local. 

Malmö recently received a red designation from the Swedish National Union of Students, which publishes an annual report assessing the housing situation in university towns and cities across Sweden. A red designation means that finding suitable accommodation as a student takes more than one semester. The report found that 61 percent of students live in a city that has been designated a red ranking.

READ ALSO: Sweden’s student union warns that housing shortages are back this semester

“The reality of Malmö and the reason why it became red is that to find suitable accommodation you have to wait up to a year,” Milosavljević said.

Some individuals, she said might have to wait up to three years to find their own accommodation, making do with second-hand contracts, long commutes, and living with family members in the meantime. For newly-arrived international students, who lack personal numbers when they move here and so cannot join Swedish housing queues, looking for suitable housing becomes a complex task.

“International students are more vulnerable because they don’t have a personal number to enter the system before they come to Sweden,” Milosavljević explained.

Milosavljević herself moved to Malmö as an international, fee-paying student. Because she paid tuition, she was offered housing by Malmö University. Based in part on her own experience, Milosavljević explained that the housing issue cannot be reduced to a shortage in the number of flats and rooms. There is also a shortage of appropriate housing options for different needs.

“They offered me accommodation in a student building,” she said. “Not an apartment, but a room – and I came with my husband. The room was not enough for two of us.”

Student accommodation must accommodate the different needs of different members of the student body, Milosavljević said, including those who move with partners or spouses, or even with their children.

In the past year, one new student apartment building was built in Malmö, with 94 new spaces for the city’s student body. This is inadequate, Milosavljević said. While Malmö is growing, and there is residential construction being carried out around the city, it is unclear how many of those new buildings will prioritise the city’s student population.

The city’s student population, too, is growing. As the pandemic era ended in Sweden, students returned to campus. And new students joined them. While student ranks grew, housing options remained stagnant.

“From our perspective from the Student Union, we have talked about, in the previous years, how the situation after the pandemic is going to get even worse for the students,” Milosavljević said. “There’s an increase of students coming back, new students, and already not even enough housing.”

Milosavljević has fielded calls and emails from students who say that they cannot move to Malmö because they cannot find housing.

“They are already working on it,” Milosavljević told The Local of the university’s response.

There are plans to create more housing for international students, but these proposals focus mainly on students from European Union, leaving other international students out. All international students should be given priority for student accommodation, Milosavljević said, because none of them have access to the Swedish housing market.

“I do believe strongly that the City of Malmö and Malmö University need to have urgent negotiations and start building straight away,” she said.

Because Malmö University is a public university, it must follow the lead of the Ministry of Education and Research. Milosavljević acknowledged that in the aftermath of Sweden’s recent elections, which put the right-bloc in power, student housing shortages might not rank highly on a list of national priorities.

“The Student Union Malmö considers this situation quite urgent and acute,” Milosavljević said. “We are more than prepared to sit down and talk so we can actually do something, instead of just having meetings. The students will continue to suffer if the living conditions and the bostad [housing] situation in Malmö is not improved.”

SHOW COMMENTS