Earlier this week I went to check out the housing situation in Retrodorm – an old retirement home that has since been converted into a dormitory for international students. The idea behind this conversion was that the need for cheap student housing was critical, and the building in question was not fit to house elderly people in retirement any longer. Paint falling off the walls, waterlogged outer walls and overflowinging drains: clearly Retrodorm hasn’t been thought of as a permanent solution to the problem.
Whenever we make the decision to increase admissions in our university, the already dire housing situation becomes increasingly acute. Students, especially international students, have limited choices when it comes to housing, and simply increasing the intake of university students doesn’t make a difference if the city of Turku doesn’t have the capacity to house these extra students. The fact is that if an exchange student comes to Finland, a house from the free market is not an option, since they generally are rented out for a one year period, minimum. The problem is not limited to exchange students: all university students have limited ways of earning income, and normal-priced housing can be too expensive.
So, who exactly should take charge in this most urgent matter: the city of Turku, the university, the student village foundation, perhaps? It occurs to me that the problem might not be that these individual parties aren’t aware of the issue but that this is actually a problem that needs to be solved together. I don’t think that anyone would disagree that bringing more students to the Turku area is a good thing. It’s just that there is no such thing as a free ride, and this is also the case now with student housing. Students are an investment into the future.
There are some glimmers of hope towards different parties coming together to tackle the issue. Ready Study Go Turku is one instance in which the city works together with local enterprises and universities to make Turku a better place to study. This tells me that Turku has the potential to develop into a truly student-friendly city, and that these housing problems are hurdles that we can overcome.