Newcomer Students: An Endless Housing Crisis in Damascus
Finding a decent house is still a major challenge for newcomer students in Damascus, as they have to make the choice between resorting to dormitories and enduring all of their negative aspects, or renting an expensive house close to the university.
Rama, a newcomer student who came from Homs to study at the Faculty of Tourism in Damascus, is still suffering with her search for a home close to the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences in Mezzeh or the Faculty of Science in Baramkeh. She spoke about the difficulties she faced because of the brokers who took advantage of her and her friend’s situation and need for a house.
The university student said during an interview with Enab Baladi that she had been looking for a house to rent with her friend for months; however, she could not find a suitable one. She stated that the house was “too expensive” compared to other houses in Damascus. In addition, it was in a bad condition and ill-equipped too.
In addition to all this, she had to go through the complications of administrative proceedings which included getting a security clearance to rent a house. “Usually, a bribe ranging between 25,000 and 100,000 Syrian pounds must be paid in order to get such document. This sum of money depends on the area and varies according to the position of the employee or mediator who is often called ‘al-Meftah’ (the key),”clarified Rama.
The situation of the majority of newcomer students
Rama was not the only student complaining about the trouble she encountered when she was trying to find a home close to the faculty. Salim also had to travel a long distance in order to get to the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Damascus, because he was unable to find an affordable house close to the university.
The transportation crisis has become part of Salim’s daily struggle. The student, who comes from al-Hasakah, told Enab Baladi that he is trying to overcome these difficulties amid the increase of the prices of rented houses that are close to his faculty.
“The rent of a house located near the Faculty of Civil Engineering has amounted to 150,000 and 200,000 Syrian pounds, in case the house was good and suitable for living,” he said.
Also, some homeowners require the student to sign a three-month lease, in order to raise the rent upon renewal of the contract, and pay rent for the three months in advance.
This crisis occurs amid the absence of government control over brokers and homeowners in Damascus. Exploitation at the level of the real estate market has been evident, despite the return of thousands of displaced people and refugees to their homes in Rif-Dimashq.
How do brokers justify such situation?
Enab Baladi talked with one of the brokers in Damascus, who owns three houses he puts for rent for newcomers.
The broker, who refused to reveal his name, stated that the expensive rent is “normal” given the high cost of living in Damascus, and denied the allegations that this increase is triggered by the “greedy” homeowners.
However, he said that he feels sorry for the situation of university students who are coming to study in Damascus. He pointed out that he cannot help them because the rent money covers his monthly expenses.
Both student, Rama and Salim, believe this solution to be better than resorting to dormitories, which are providing poor services, in return for the nominal prices the university requires from the student living there.
Students living in dormitories are suffering from the absence of water, heating and electricity, and are often forced to pay in order to repair broken facilities, after the housing administration refuses to assume this responsibility, under the pretext of the “lack of financial resources.”
Students remain torn between cheap but poorly-furnished dorms, a house located away from the faculty and costs an average price and a nearby house they cannot afford its rent.