Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The housing market in Tromsø / Norway

Yesterday, I started with Part 1 and Part 2 of the written series "Office catastrophes in Norway", and before it continues with Part 3, this post is going to deal with another catastrophic condition about living here in Tromsø / Norway (since it's connected to the third part): The local housing market.

As a person who is originally from Hamburg / Germany, I'm already quite familiar with a very tough housing market. I could write a whole book just about my experiences from Hamburg's housing market, and from what I keep hearing from my friends and acquaintances there, it's just getting worse all the time. All year round. All the more I was quite shocked when I moved from Hamburg to Helsinki / Finland where the housing market is even a lot worse. Also all year round. My three-year experiences from Helsinki's housing market could fill another book. Our years in Turku / Finland, on the contrary, turned out to be very calm and peaceful. The move from Helsinki to Turku was based on the university place my love received there, and since we moved there at the same time as all the other new students from outside Turku, it was not easy to find an apartment there either, but that was solely based on the time of our move (= high competition). Otherwise, it's not a problem to find an accommodation in Turku all year round, and when it comes to "value for money", Turku has been by far the best place to live in, amongst others because of its very reasonable housing market and real estate prices. That's maybe one reason why we never had to move within Turku during the three years we lived there. Everything has been perfect, right from the beginning. Everything has been stable. 

When we prepared our move from Turku to Tromsø, we had around two months time to find an accommodation in Tromsø (since the final confirmation of my love's exchange year arrived just around that time). We were fully prepared for the high real estate prices in Tromsø, so money wasn't the problem. Not at all. And we knew all the sources for finding an accommodation. However, when the day of our move to Tromsø came,  in August 2015, we had to move to Tromsø without having a place to stay... And we were by far not the only ones!

In Tromsø, it's not unusual that even Norwegian students don't find an accommodation, leading to them being forced to quit their studies and to move back to the places they are originally from. Not to mention how it looks like for students from outside Norway. Many of those who don't find an accommodation live temporarily in tents. Those who can afford it are living on boats, in caravans, in cars or in hostels and hotels.

At the beginning of the academic year 2015/2016, "Studentsamskipnaden i Tromsø" ["The Student Association in Tromsø"] offered emergency accommodations for 120 NOK (~ 13,30 €) per night and per person. Furthermore, many hotels in Tromsø got together and offered hotel rooms at a lower rate for students in need of accommodation. 

As you see: The housing market in Tromsø is very desperate. And that's a fact all year round. Last time we heard of the waiting list for student housing, there were still nearly 100 persons "standing in line". That was a few weeks ago.

If one has no boat, caravan or car and cannot afford to live in a hostel or hotel for a longer period, living in a tent might be the only solution left, until... 

Either winter is coming - or the local press.

Just recently, a tent has been discovered in a forest area here on the main island Tromsøya. It was "full of trash", and inside the tent, there were also found some educational books from the university, so there was amongst others the assumption that a student was living there. I don't know if it has ever been revealed who lived there, if it really was a student, but when I searched for the corresponding article, I stumbled on another article with a similar content from over three years ago, so abandoned tents seem to be a recurring topic in the local press in Tromsø. Since years. I don't know if the persons living in the tents really abandoned their improvised homes or if they felt ashamed of their improvised homes being suddenly a topic in the local press (which might have deterred them from returning there). In any case, it underlines how desperate the housing situation in Tromsø really is. And in connection with that, the final question in the older article ["Synes du det er greit at folk telter over lengre tid i Folkeparken?"; in English: "Do you think it's ok that people are camping in the public park for a longer time?"] seems "a bit" inappropriate to me. Some people really don't know where to stay otherwise and probably feel bad enough already because of that very fact.

As for us, we were just extremely lucky that we never had to live in a tent. Although everything regarding the finances were put in order and although we used all the sources available to find an accommodation months prior to our move, it was just pure luck that we found a place to stay at shortly after we had moved to Tromsø.

I will never understand why e.g. universities offer more study places than there are housing capacities in a city. In the end, it just casts a damning light on the city, if not even on the entire country (especially for exchange students who never find a place to stay and are, in the worst case, forced to quit their studies).

In the print issue Nr.5/2015, Northern Norway's biggest student magazine "Utropia" dedicated not only one but two articles to that topic. In one of these two articles, some students and professors tell about their alternative forms of accommodation, and I especially liked the statement of the biology student Torgeir who owns and lives on a sailing boat and amongst others refuses to stand for the real estate market situation in Tromsø: 

"Thinking, for example, about a young couple with children, I think the housing situation in Tromsø is not acceptable at all, as a student one should feel responsible for that, I am glad not to contribute to this market."

A lot is built in Tromsø, and even containers have been set up for incoming (exchange) students, yet things seem to develop very slowly. And in connection with that, it appears a bit weird to read headlines such as "Asylsøkere i Finland må bo i telt" ["Asylum seekers in Finland have to live in tents"] in the local press in Tromsø when you know only too well that "Studenter i Norge må også bo i telt" ["Students in Norway have to live in tents, too"]. 


Van B. said...

I saw the headline of the article you talk about recently but didn't read it... I didn't know that it might have been a student who lived in the tent! That's so awful to hear but at the same time so understandable! It's especially worse for international students as they don't get money from the state like the Norwegians and therefore really struggle with rent and food prices... I really hope that the situation changes some day!!

Stefanie Singh [Sound Kitchen] said...

I hope so, too, but after all I have seen and experienced in Tromsø so far, I don't have much hope for such a change...