Two people on nine square meters

International students coming to Oslo are guaranteed housing but today lack of space forces 236 exchange students to share rooms, the smallest ones being only nine square meters. –This is far from what we expected, says Russian student Kate Makhnovskaya.

På norsk

Makhnovskaya is one of the 236 students who have to share rooms in the Kringsjå student village. The size of the room she shares with Natalya Semenova is nine square meters and it is equipped with two beds, one desk and dysfunctional internet connection. For this the students pay 2300 Norwegian kroner each a month, while students who rent this type of room alone pay 4000 kroner.

The international students are frustrated by the situation they have landed in.

– The rooms do not live up to the standard we pictured, the internet connections are broken in half of the rooms, and it is difficult to get through with our complaints. In addition we are segredated from Norwegian students and it is only foreigners who are forced to share the rooms, says Makhnovskaya.

The only option

85 of the international students in the Kringsjå student village have signed a letter of complaint to the Foundation for Student Life in Oslo (SiO). The complaint was sent August 16th but the students have not yet received an answer to their letter. Other students have sent individual complaints and they call the complaint process an inconvenient bureaucracy.

– I sent an email in which I´d written about all the flaws and problems.
The answer I received was that I had accepted these conditions since I had signed the contract. I was also told I could apply for a single room but the waiting time for a single room is two months, and since I´m only staying in Norway for one semester I don´t know if there´s any point to it, says Romanian student Alexandra Toader.

Several students say that they did not choose to share their rooms but that this seemed to be the only option. The arrangement of two students in one room only affects international students and the students Universitas have spoken to do not like that their rent is higher than what SiO would have demanded for one person living in the room alone.

Guaranteed housing

International students who come to Norway have the prior claim to the student housing units SiO can offer. This is due to an agreement between the University of Oslo (UiO), BI Norwegian School of Management and SiO.

– UiO guarantees international students a place to live and consequently SiO priorities the international students according to the arrangement, says Monica Bakken, study director at UiO.

Bakken thinks housing is an important factor when it comes to attracting international students to Oslo but she stresses the need for more student housing units.

– We see clearly the challenge connected to the general lack of student housing and UiO agrees on SiO´s claim that we need more housing units.

Only affects international students

Last august SiO had problems with with overbooking housing for international students. 200 students were homeless by the semester had started. Housing director in SiO Tom Olstad calls the new arrangment an experiment in order to increase the student housing capacity and avoid similar situations.

The situation with two students in one room only affects international students and is tested at Kringsjå student village. 236 students are affected by the experiment.

– By this year´s semester start we have several thousand students who have applied for a place to stay with us who we have to reject due to lack of space. Two students in one room is an experiment we test in order to offer housing to a larger number of students than what we normally would have managed, says Olstad.

– Did the people who have to share rooms choose this themselves?

– Normally those who wish to apply for housing do this through our websites and this is the case for many of those who live together in one room. Some of the students were given housing through UiO and BI.

– Why is the total rent for two people sharing one room higher than what one person living in a single room would pay?

– This is due to several aspects. Among other things there are more common areas, and the rooms are furnished. When it comes to energy cost two people will use more warm water and electricity than one student.

Olstad rejects the international students´ demands about lower rent.

– The rent is set to cover the actual cost we face with this housing concept.

Accepts criticism

Manager in SiO Fredrik Øren Refsnes is humble when it comes to the international students´ situation. He underlines that the concept is just an experiment.

– The information we have sent out has not been sufficient. We accept the complaints we get concerning flaws and defects in the rooms. We are working to compensate for all the things that lack but at the moment we cannot promise lower rent, says Refsnes.

– We will consider all the feedback we have received when we evaluate the concept. I have seen the students´ letter of complaint and I can promise an answer as fast as it is possible.

Simen Tallaksen • Ketil Blom (foto) • Translation by Ingrid F. Brubaker

Wants to remove the housing guarantee

The head of the Welfare Council wants to remove the housing guarantee for international students. In this way it will be easier for Norwegian students to find hou sing.

På norsk

– The internationalization works faster than the house-building. If we keep up the housing guarantee we might end up by a crossroad where Norwegian students will be thrown out in order to make room for the international ones, says Mari Berdal Djupvik, head of the Welfare Council´s working commitee.

She thinks in the long run it will be difficult to maintain a housing guarantee and welomes a discussion on today´s arrangement.

– I think we need to divide out our housing units in August in a different way. The number of international students given a place to live in August has increased and this year we feared that there wouldn´t be any housing units left for Norwegian students.

In Monday´s Welfare Council meeting the set of rules of housing was discussed. A majority from the working commitee wanted to keep 40 per cent of SiO´s housing for Norwegian students and by that remove the housing guarantee for international students. This proposition was voted down but will have to be discussed again in the case of a possible merge of SiO and OAS in January

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En kommentar

Anne Bruns

"For this the students pay 2300 Norwegian kroner each a month, while students who rent this type of room alone pay 4000 kroner. "

this is not a correct information. Students that rent this room wouldnt pay 4000 kroner. It might be at most about 3000 kroner.

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