A Tough Housing Market for Students
As an international student in Gothenburg, finding a place to live can sometimes prove a challenge. Looking for housing during the relatively small timeslot between the admissions and the start of the semester whilst being in another country is not an easy task, and the housing market can be tough.
For more than a decade, the Swedish National Union of Students (SFS) has conducted an annual survey regarding the availability of student housing in Sweden’s university towns. Since SFS started surveying this, the results have shown a shortage of student apartments and dormitories in the larger university towns (Gothenburg, Lund, Stockholm and Uppsala) every year, and many other cities have also had shortcomings in this area. According to SFS, the housing situation for students in Sweden is subpar, and has been so for at least ten years.
The results of the 2019 survey were published in August and Gothenburg could be found among the twelve towns marked red, meaning that these cities normally cannot offer new students a student accommodation during the fall semester. Every year approximately 12 100 new students attend the University of Gothenburg, but in the whole city of Gothenburg there is only about 8900 student apartments or dorm rooms.
Another survey showing similar results is the International Student Barometer (ISB). It assesses international students overall experiences of the participating universities. The results of the 2018 survey show that the Welcome Services at the University of Gothenburg are much appreciated, as they are ranked as the best in Europe and the fifth best in the world. However, when it comes to housing the results are far bleaker.
International Students Particularly Affected
International students are in an especially rough spot, as Swedish students normally can enter the housing que at SGS Student Housing (which is the predominate proprietor of student housing in Gothenburg) earlier. Among the international students, the free movers often have a tougher time than the exchange students do, as is displayed in the ISB survey. In Sweden there are regulations regulating how government agencies own and rent out property. As a public authority, the University of Gothenburg can legally only grant accommodation to exchange students.
This means that some exchange students and all free mover students have to arrange their own housing and have to look for second hand apartment contracts or rooms to rent from private landlords on Facebook and Blocket (which is a digital Swedish marketplace).
I spent about two months searching for an accommodation before I found one
One student who managed to make her living arrangements before she arrived in Gothenburg is Ophelia Fu, who has come from Shanghai in order to study strategic human resource management and labour management at the University of Gothenburg. She is attaining a master’s degree and will be staying for two years. As she was not part of an exchange program, she had to arrange her own housing for the duration of her stay.
“I applied for SGS but they said that the wait is usually about one and a half year.“
Instead, Ophelia Fu turned her attention to different groups on Facebook where private landlords post ads, as well as Boplats and Blocket. She started looking for a place to live in May.
“I made sure to check the different Facebook groups every day to see if any new ads had been posted.”
In July, she replied to an ad she found on Facebook whose requirements she met and got a positive response from the landlord. After a video call, they came to an agreement.
“I spent about two months searching for an accommodation before I found one.”
Now Ophelia Fu rents a room in Kungsbacka, a small town outside of Gothenburg. She has her own bathroom and plenty of storage space. Even though it is a bit far and she has to commute, she really likes it.
“If I paid the same rent, but in central Gothenburg, I would get a much smaller space.”
Ophelia Fu thinks that it is important to present yourself well to potential landlords when looking for housing, and to make sure to utilize every available channel. Apart from Facebook, Boplats and Blocket, she found a lot of helpful information on other websites, like Movetogothenburg.com.
“Some sites are only available in Swedish but I just used Google Translate."
I have been lucky
Dayane Proaño, who is from Ecuador, is studying the international master’s program in information technology and learning at the Faculty of Education. Like Ophelia Fu, she also made her own living arrangements before she arrived in Gothenburg late this August.
“I have been lucky. I know that many international students have had a harder time finding somewhere to stay.”
Having heard that finding lodging in Gothenburg can be difficult, Dayane Proaño decided not to be picky when looking for a room. She searched and responded to the ads she found regardless of where in Gothenburg the rooms up for rent where located.
“I answered about 20 ads in all.”
When she found a room to rent it was in Bergsjön, a district in east Gothenburg. She likes it although she would not mind living a litter closer to her faculty. Her landlord regularly rents rooms to students and Dayane Proaño has two housemates who are also students, one from the Netherlands and one from Rwanda.
“It is nice that there is always someone to talk to, and I have not felt alone since I came here.”