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'The Hunger Games': Two million university students in Spain fight to find a room 

The Local Spain
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'The Hunger Games': Two million university students in Spain fight to find a room 
Finding a room to rent in Spain has become extremely challenging for many of Spain's university students. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

Renting a room in a shared flat in Spain has become a nightmare for foreign and national university students despite the rise in available accommodation, as landlords exploit a loophole that allows them to avoid the housing law's rent freezes.

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“Headache”, “odyssey”, “labyrinth” or “like the Hunger Games” are just some words the Spanish press has been using to describe the troubles many of the two million university students in Spain have been enduring to find accommodation for the new academic year. 

Even though the amount of available rooms in Spain has increased by 34 percent over the past year, landlords have still put up prices by 5 percent on average.

This rise in stock and price could be partly explained by the fact that landlords have been more willing to rent out to students as “the rooms offered in shared flats are not subject to Spain’s new Housing Law, but by the country’s Civil Law, so they are not subject to price limits”, head of research at property portal Fotocasa María Matas told Spanish radio station Cope.

READ MORE: Six key points about Spain's new housing law

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In essence, landlords who rent their properties to students can make double or more than if they were renting it out to a single family, and they don’t have to abide by the new rent freezes.

The average monthly rent for a room in Spain is €445 but the price hike in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona is far more pronounced. 

In the Spanish capital, most students are being forced to pay between €500 and €600 for just a room, and there are reports of some habitaciones (rooms) going for an eye-watering €1,000 a month. 

“In neighbourhoods such as Malasaña and Arguelles, there are flats advertised that haven’t been refurbished, they’re falling to bits and rooms are still going for between €600 and €700,” a university student in Madrid told Spanish daily El Español.

“You’ve got to be very careful because sometimes they ask you to pay a two months’ deposit in advance to secure the room, and then they tell you for any number of reasons that they can’t show you the room yet. It’s usually a scam”. 

In other university cities such as Santiago and Salamanca, it’s still possible to find a room in a shared flat for a much more reasonable €300 or €400 a month, but that doesn’t mean that securing a place is any easier for university students.

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Around 54 percent of the total of shared rooms in Spain are in Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Valencia, meaning that in smaller university cities the available stock is lower. And that’s not all.

“Now you not only have to have the approval of the owner, but also that of all the people you are going to live with,” Matos explained about the fact that shared flats fall under Civil Code rules.

“There are now more selection criteria for these tenants. Therefore the levels of access are much harder and it is more difficult to access rental housing.”

There are reports of some students being asked for a six months’ deposit, proof of savings and even the requirement of completing a personality test.  

READ ALSO: Stricter requirements and screenings - Why it’s harder to rent in Spain

Many landlords in Spain also still prefer the short-term holiday rental model over shared accommodation for students, which means that in university cities which are also tourist hotspots the search is even more challenging for universitarios (university students).

New student housing which is not necessarily affiliated with a specific university as in the case of colegios mayores is proving to be a solution for many, with 18,000 more rooms available since 2019.

They operate almost like hotels and their fixed prices, although high, put many students' and their parents' minds at rest when compared to the volatile and strict requirements of the regular shared accommodation market.

READ ALSO: Are Spanish universities any good?

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