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International student housing situation is “alarming” – ESN

A housing shortage across many European host nations is seriously affecting international students, a new Erasmus Student Network survey has revealed. According to the findings, victims have experienced discrimination and fraud in addition to a critical shortage of residence provision, which is reportedly being ignored by some HEIs, policymakers and housing providers.

HouseErasmus+ photoThe HousErasmus+ survey was based on 8,000 replies all over Europe and took place over a two year period.

25% of respondents admitted they went abroad without having any permanent accommodation arranged

Data gathered as part of the HousErasmus+ survey revealed that 45% of Erasmus+ students found the housing market of their host HEI difficult while 12% experienced attempted fraud.

Of that figure, 20% of those trying to find accommodation in Turkey or Sweden and 28% in Ireland reported instances of fraud.

“The government and the HEIs need to do much more to combat this”

This included cases of bogus housing adverts on social media or being asked for a deposit in return for receiving the key via mail.

However a spokesperson for Irish Council for International Students, Derrie Murray, told The PIE News it is important to note the findings were based on a small sample size.

108 international students studying in Ireland responded, 32 of whom reported encountering attempted fraud.

“While we acknowledge that there is a serious problem of fraud in the private rental sector in Ireland – and there are many scams that target international students in particular – thankfully it is not our experience that 28% of all international students in Ireland have experienced such scams,” he added.

However, Murray does acknowledge that student housing scams are an issue, and one that is not receiving the attention it deserves.

“That being said, many do fall victim to these scams each year, and the government and the HEIs need to do much more to combat this.”

The survey also found on average 17% of respondents reported discrimination when looking for accommodation, including higher rents for international students and perceived instances of xenophobia.

Other pressing issues highlighted by the survey included insufficient student housing and quality information. This gap in information led to 25% of respondents admitting they went abroad without having any permanent accommodation arranged.

HousErasmus+ project coordinator Jérémy Apert said the lack of cooperation amongst HEIs, policymakers and housing providers to address the crisis is of great concern.

“Policymakers need to make more funds available because… international students are at the bottom of the list of priorities”

“Universities are very disengaged with the accommodation issues and they don’t necessarily do enough to help students,” Apert told The PIE News.

“But it is not just the responsibility of the universities. Dealing with the question of housing is paramount and building new housing is the only solution. But we can’t expect universities to just build new housing without funding.

“Policymakers need to make more funds available because in smaller cities, student housing falls under urban planning and international students are at the bottom of the list of priorities.

“We are trying to highlight the economic and cultural benefit of international students with local communities because students are being forced to compete in the local housing market where they are at a disadvantage.”

Apert said that while none of the students surveyed had resorted to staying in a campsite due to lack of housing as was recently exposed in the Netherlands, some had no alternative but to cancel their international experience and return home.

“Universities are burying their heads in the sand. We need to keep having discussions, conferences and talking about [the housing crisis]. The better this practice is the faster we might have a solution,” added Apert.

According to Murray, HEI international officers in Ireland are “doing their best to assist students”, but ultimately they need to be allocated more resources.

“Given an expected increase of 27% in the number of international students [in Ireland] over the next two years, we are particularly disappointed in the opposition of some councillors in Dublin and Cork to the construction of purpose-built student accommodation in their areas.”

“Quality, affordable purpose-built student accommodation must be an important element in any plan to tackle the accommodation crisis, and is particularly attractive to international students who are unfamiliar with the Irish rental market,” Murray added.

The EU has set a target of having 20% of all higher education graduates take part in a mobility experience by 2020.

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