A dilapidated dormitory complex in Munich highlights the dire situation facing students

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The number of students facing the financial pit continues to grow. A report by the charity Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband (Parity Welfare Association) from May this year makes it clear that students have been cheated out of meager donations by politicians for years.

Munich Student City [Photo: WSWS]

According to the revealing study, around 30% of students were affected by poverty in 2019. The number of recipients of BAföG (need-based scholarships) fell from 18.4% in 2010 to 11.3% in 2020, l State aid being totally unsuited to the situation. student living conditions.

The poverty rate among students is thus almost twice as high as in the population as a whole, at 16.8%.

The study does not take into account the drastic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Many part-time student jobs have disappeared since the start of the pandemic, further exacerbating financial hardship. As a result, students drop out more frequently and take on more debt.

The already volatile situation is also becoming increasingly acute for students due to the US-NATO proxy war in Ukraine.

Inflation in Germany was close to 8% in August and the energy crisis is taking on increasingly harsh forms. At the same time, rents are rising relentlessly and dormitory space is knowingly being reduced, as evidenced by a dispute over the redevelopment of Student City in Munich.

Rents for student accommodation have risen sharply in more than 75% of German cities over the past 12 months. Potsdam, Bremen and Giessen saw the biggest increase, at 16%.

According to the real estate portal immowelt, the rents for student apartments in Munich are by far the most expensive. For a 40 square meter accommodation, a student has to dig deep to pay the monthly rent of €840. A year ago it was €760.

Student services provider Studierendenwerk Munich assumes that utility costs will increase by 30-40% for the 2021/2022 billing year “due to the drastic increase in energy costs”. In the next billing year, students face another 40-50% increase in utility costs. For many, it is simply unaffordable.

In other university towns, the situation is just as catastrophic. According to the Studierendenwerk Darmstadt, utility costs have risen by 17% since July, while the Studentenwerk Gießen speaks of around 16%. The Studierendenwerk Berlin increases rents by €60 per month to an average of €329 from 1 January 2023, an increase of almost 25%.

But that’s not all: according to the Energy Management Office of the Land of Berlin, the 9,189 student residences in Berlin will face an explosion in energy prices of around 200% next year. . Compared to August 2021 alone, energy prices have already increased by 35.6%.

In July, the BAföG reform increased the maximum support grant for students by just 5.75% to €427. The rent subsidy has been increased from a meager €35 to €360. Compared to inflation, students have even less money than before at their disposal.

Neither the one-time grant of €230 for BAföG beneficiaries nor the one-time payment for students of €200 specified in the government’s third “relief package” will defuse the dire situation. In particular, the relief program fades into insignificance compared to the extreme redistribution from those below to those above that the government and corporations are now organizing.

The situation in university towns is further aggravated by the lack of student accommodation. According to the Studentenwerk Munich annual report for 2021, 14,000 students applied for a place in a student residence, but only just over 4,000 were able to sign a lease. As of December 2021, over 13,000 students were on the waiting list, forcing them to wait up to five semesters for a spot.

In total, the Studentenwerk Munich could theoretically offer 11,242 rooms and apartments in Munich and the surrounding area. But available dorm space has dropped for 2019 and 2020 due to vacancies.

A dispute over the redevelopment of Student City, Germany’s largest dormitory complex in northern Munich, highlights the dire situation. It is representative of the failed Bavarian state government and Studentenwerk Munich.

At present, considerable parts of Student City are empty. Nearly 2,500 students could live there, but currently there are only 1,000 inhabitants. Three of the four high-rise buildings are so dilapidated that they are no longer habitable.

Studentenwerk Munich only took over the building complex in 2015 from the charity that previously ran the facility. The oldest buildings are already over 50 years old. So far, only three of the total 14 atrium buildings have been fully renovated between 2016 and 2019.

A terrible fire in the “Red House” in February 2021 revealed just how dire the state of Student City is. A 23-year-old student died from severe smoke inhalation and a 28-year-old man was seriously injured; both died trying to save themselves via the heavily smoky stairwell of the six-story building.

According to fire investigators from the Munich police headquarters and the State Office for Criminal Investigation, the cause of the fire was a technical fault in the sauna in the basement of the building, which was then closed in due to the pandemic. The investigation is still ongoing and Studentenwerk’s acting general manager, Ursula Wurzer-Faßnacht, remains silent on the matter.

Other expert reports have revealed major fire protection deficits in Student City, following which two other residential complexes had to be vacated in the past year.

According to Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), an expert had pointed out “serious shortcomings” in the fire protection at the Studentenwerk months before the fire. The Studentenwerk was therefore aware of the state of the complex. The shortcomings were then corrected in an improvised manner so that the building could continue to be used for years without the necessary investments, regardless of the continuing danger to the lives of the residents.

Parts of Student City escaped a mandatory escape order in early 2021 because there were escape routes in stairwells and therefore no “significant danger” could be determined. A private expert also felt that the continued use of the “red house” was justifiable. There were also serious fire safety deficiencies in the “orange house”, but it remained occupied for another eight months after the fire.

A spokesperson for the Studentenwerk stressed to the newspaper SZ that the “well-being” of the residents was “the top priority at all times”. No errors or omissions had occurred in the past, he said, as fire protection had been investigated “on an ongoing basis”. The additional measures taken after the fire, for example in the form of a fire watch, would have testified to an “unconditional priority” to safety. The cynicism of these statements can hardly be surpassed.

According to audit firm KPMG, another apartment complex Studentenwerk has been certified as having “very poor” fire protection, which means that other apartments cannot be rented out to students.

Meanwhile, the Bavarian state government and Studentenwerk Munich pass the buck between them – a lesson in political unscrupulousness played on the backs of countless students.

On the one hand, there is the Studentenwerk which, according to its own words, does not have the capital necessary to finance the redevelopment of Student City. He is asking for financial support of 24.5 million euros from the Bavarian Land government.

The Christian Social Union (CSU), which rules Bavaria, on the other hand, regards the Studentenwerk as responsible for the so-called “unnecessary” vacancies in the student city. Last March, the chairman of the science committee of the state parliament, Robert Brannekämper (CSU), even went so far as to speak to the SZ about a hasty mandatory clearance of the skyscrapers in the north of Munich.

About two weeks ago, Bavarian Science Minister Markus Blume (CSU) also offered to raise the rents for student dormitories. Students should therefore be forced to pay for the redevelopment of the student town and other dormitory complexes themselves.

The despicable attitudes of officials surrounding the redevelopment of Student City are strongly reminiscent of June 2017, when 72 people died in London in the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire due to the foreseeable consequences of using the wrong form of external cladding as a cost . – cutting measure. For the bourgeoisie, human life is more or less unimportant.

While there is apparently no money for education and housing, the German government decided in February to provide the armed forces with a special fund of 100 billion euros. In comparison, federal spending on education and research has been reduced by 20.82 billion euros (2021) to the current 20.39 billion euros. A meager increase of €186,000 is planned for next year.

In addition, heavy weapons and tanks worth billions are being supplied to Ukraine, risking a third world war that could spell the end of humanity.

In July, Federal Minister of Construction Klara Geywitz (Social Democratic Party, SPD) announced a funding program for “Housing for young people”. From next year and until 2026, the construction of new accommodation for students and trainees is to be subsidized. As for the financial volume of the funding program, Geywitz exulted that it would be “in the hundreds of millions”.

Such promises are not worth the paper they are written on, nor will they alleviate the dire situation facing students and young people.

Many students are already wondering: would I rather have a roof over my head or something to eat? Many workers, families and retirees can hardly cope with soaring prices for energy, food and rent. At the same time, a small wealthy elite live in luxury.

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