A desk, bed, wardrobe, wet room and perhaps a kitchen unit represent the basic equipment of a place to stay for a large number of new students. Just like a lecture hall, only very few students entered this first room of independent life during the pandemic.

There were almost 419,000 new students in the 2020/21 winter semester, around 10,000 fewer than in the previous year.

Many of them were either forced by the lockdowns or preferred to stay with their parents and start studying from their desks at home.

Gregor Brunner

Editor in business.

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The reduced dynamics, even among older semesters, led to a slight relaxation in the student housing market. In its Student Housing Report 2021, which was submitted to the FAZ in advance, MLP Finanzberatung calculates an average increase in rental prices for small apartments at 30 university locations of 1.8 percent. This means that rents in the period under review from the end of the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2021 increased more than in the same period of the previous year (0.5 percent), but less than the general development on the real estate market. Rental prices there rose by around 2.5 percent in the first half of 2019.

MLP justifies the slight price increase for student apartments with the higher level of competition.

The small apartments are also still attractive for young workers, long-distance commuters and single people.

In contrast, rooms in shared apartments, which are almost exclusively demanded by students, only rose by 0.9 percent in the comparison period.

Fewer apartments for students in Berlin

Supply and demand also largely determine price developments in student accommodation.

And this shows that cities in which the supply of living space had increased also recorded stagnation or even a decrease in rental prices.

An increase in offers per student of almost 60 percent in the 2020/21 winter semester contributed to a price reduction of 2.6 percent in Stuttgart.

In Munich there were 43 apartments or rooms for every 100 students. Here the prices rose by 0.1 percent. For Berlin, whose rent cap was decided at the end of January 2020 and tipped by the Federal Constitutional Court at the end of March 2021, there was a shortage of student living space by 15 percent and a rent increase of 5.4 percent during the period under review.

Even if rental prices fell slightly in some cities, MLP warns against being too optimistic. The median asking rents are often in such a high range that students, who are often in precarious financial circumstances, will continue to have difficulties looking for an apartment. To make matters worse, there is a loss of income for marginally employed people and thus often students. The lockdowns increasingly affected industries such as hospitality and tourism, in which students often earn extra income. According to data from MLP, there was already an average income decrease for 2019, as well as for low-income students. Lockdowns are likely to have exacerbated this development.

These problems have so far not been addressed in the election campaign. Controversial rental price regulation tools have shown in Berlin as an example that they reduce the supply of living space for students. Nevertheless, the SPD, the Greens and the Left are calling for greater intervention in the market, while the Union and FDP are campaigning for more new buildings. There is agreement on the reform of the BAföG and the associated subsidies should the recipient no longer live at home. While most of the discussion points revolve around a reorganization of the criteria for the purchase as well as the design as a loan or subsidy, only the Greens speak of an income-related needs subsidy that also takes housing costs into account. This would take into account the large differences in rental prices in different cities, comments MLP.