Students protest against city in struggle for Krakow rental

In comparison with last year students will have to pay 30 percent more for renting private flats in Krakow. Rental boom is conducive to various abuses. Although Krakow’s universities and academies have their own dormitories, only those of the lowest income levels can count on being admitted to a room there. Students applying to the university must first undergo a means test and if their available assets exceed set limits of income, the request is rejected.If not admitted to a dormitory, students have to look for a place to rent.

On the website www.gazeta.pl, one can find assistance in looking for and renting a flat, however not very many people can apply for their offerings, because the selection is small and demand is big. The cost of renting flats in Krakow has gone the way of purchase prices, which in Krakow have doubled over the last few years. Price depends on the accommodations’ design standards and distance from the city center.

Currently however, even in distant locations, a studio flat costs over 1,000 zloty per month. Two- and three-room apartments are the most wanted and thus the most expensive – about 1,500-1,700 zloty per month. Since new colleges and new majors open every year, Krakow’s availability of living quarters is shrinking visibly. Student real estate agencies are besieged with young people struggling to find a place to stay and newspaper advertisements are answered very quickly.

“I was looking for a new flat this summer because my previous roommates had scattered,” says Basia Sosnowska, a student of Polish as a Foreign Language studies in the Jagiellonian University. “What is happening in Krakow now is ridiculous! The prices are sky high compared even to last year. The best offers are taken by real estate agencies, but even so, these are no luxury. Newspaper ads are out of date at 08:30 on the same day they are printed. Owners are aware that they are the privileged party, so they don’t care about things,” she said.

Since moving in, Basia has discovered a broken window, which had been covered in such a way that it could not be seen, a broken down washing machine, and recently – rats. The worst thing is that the owners have been reluctant to react to her pleads for taking care of these problems.

Also more and more owners arrange interviews for future renters to select the most appropriate ones. Of course, this would not be so bad, if only the students were treated with respect-something which rarely happens. The owners question future renters concerning income, smoking, personal relationships and other, sometimes more personal, issues. They want to check if the student is desperate enough to pay more than the previously arranged prices.

“We were once given an appointment to see a flat,” says Basia. “The lady was from the agency, and when we rang the intercom, she asked us to wait downstairs. She came all the way down to pick us up and escort us upstairs to the flat. During the visit, she took notes. Afterwards, she told us that she would ring us if we’d been chosen. There was no way that we could call or ask about the results. And after us, there was somebody else coming, although it was almost 22:00. The lady must have been sitting in that flat since morning!” she said.

Due to this recurring situation, a protest against high prices and unacceptable treatment began on August 28 in the student internet portal www.dlastudenta.pl. Students threatened to organize street protests and block the universities. They wrote an open letter, which was subsequently supported and signed by all presidents of Krakow’s public universities. To date, the letter has been signed by over 5,000 people.

“We want to thank everybody who took part in this discussion,” wrote the editorial team of the portal on their web site, dlastudenta.pl. “The most important thing is that many people have noticed the problem and started thinking about it,” they comment.

However, there is small hope that such actions will be able to help the situation. The real estate market is powered by capitalist rules, and private owners don’t care about the protests. “Am I to care that students don’t have anywhere to live?” writes ‘wesolyemigrant’ on the forum of www.gazeta.pl. “No! I know that they will find the cash for it-less beer and they will rent a bigger flat,” he said.

“Yes, the university is not compulsory, but just think about the wasted potential of those who cannot afford to study. Recently we have been hearing so much about equal chances for everybody; it’s a pity that does not apply in this case,” comments Basia Sosnowska.
 

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