Student cities hit by COVID-19 as rents nosedive by 40 percent
Gülistan Alagöz – ISTANBUL
Turkey’s student cities have been financially hit by the coronavirus pandemic due to online education after the country launched distance education.
“As the students went back to their hometowns, limiting their need to come back to the college towns, the rents nosedived by 40 percent, cafes and restaurants were closed and furniture shops are in dire straits,” officials have said.
The northwestern province of Eskişehir is at the top of the list, with more than 72,000 registered students in the province’s university.
According to the director of Chamber of Estate Agents in Eskişehir, the landlords and the cafe owners were the first to suffer losses.
“Normally in September, just before the university opens, we get busy. This year, it did not happen like that,” said Gazi Çelik.
“A rent of 1,300 Turkish Liras [$163] decreased to 1,000 liras [$126]. We now ask 700 liras [$88] for the same [flat]. The landlords are in a panic as there is no student tenants left,” added Çelik.
Talking about the situation of cafes, Çelik said, “All cafes are empty. Business owners cannot pay the rent now. They want to sublease, but no one wants. Tour the city. You will see multiple sublease signs on cafes’ windows.”
Another college town that suffers from the financial effects of the coronavirus is the northwestern province of Sakarya.
“Investors wanted to benefit from the student city. They invested, opened apart-hotels, cafes, restaurants. Now they brood on the situation,” said the president of the Union of Chamber of Merchants and Craftsmen of the province, Hasan Alişan.
According to Alişan, amid the pandemic, 295 cafes and 180 restaurants were closed. “Seventy percent of the cafes’ incomes used to be by the students. No students, no income.”
“Rent of 1,200 liras [$151] decreased to 700 liras [$88],” Turan Çakar, an estate agent in Sakarya said, highlighting the severe fall of the rents in the city.
The situation in the eastern province of Erzurum is not so different either.
A cafe owner in the province has said that he lost two-thirds of his clients just after the online education started. “Students did not come, we lost clients.”
Fatih Soral, an estate agent in the province, noted “Winter will be hard for tradesmen,” referring to the popular “Winter is coming” episode of the famous TV series Game of Thrones.
Some estate agents in another student city, the northwestern province of Bursa, gave figures of the losses. According to them, 60 percent of the houses in the districts rented to students are now empty.
Landlords in the western province of İzmir are perhaps the ones who are hit the worst. Tarık Ordu, an estate agent, said, “Rents have fallen to 1,800 liras [$227] from 3,000 liras [$378].”
Furniture sellers in the Central Anatolian province of Konya are suffering as well. “Our shop is located in the middle of three universities. We used to have busy days, but now, sometimes we close the shop with no sale,” said Mehmet Günay, a second-hand furniture shop owner.
“We hope this outbreak ends and we go back to our normal lives,” said Çelik in support of all the business owners suffering in times of the pandemic.