PRAGUE,CZECH REPUBLIC -- When you have to share a space to live with somebody that you have no relation to, and who was chosen for you by a faceless accommodation computer system, you try to plan your daily life on avoiding each other. So you don’t have to wait for a shower, share a space (in awkward silence) in front of the sink while brushing teeth. You will also learn not to get hungry at the same time because in kitchen there is space to cook for just one person at the time.
In Prague, many young people now live in a similar way. Due to a spike in real estate prices young adults are now choosing to live in dorms because it is the only place to live that they can afford.
Prices for flats and even rooms skyrocketed very high, as much as 10 000 Czech Koruna (around 400€) per room. People who come to Prague for studies often opt for living in a dorm but with so many people applying, their capacity does not meet the demand. Their condition is also often not fit for 21st. century way of living.
For past couple years the prices of real-estate in Prague had been growing. As an immediate response, rents grew as well. According to a study published by The Center for Economical and Market Analysis (CETA) there are several factors affecting the price of real estates. One of them is the higher demand for flats in the capital. Among others factors it is also inflation, cheap and affordable mortgages and economical growth of the region.
The most important factor that they pointed out as the biggest problem is that in Prague it takes seven years to get an approval for new development project (for comparison they use Belgium where it takes just six months). Since a new batch of university students and fresh graduates move to Prague each year this becomes a problem.
Looking for a perfect room
Katarína Kotásková (23) from Slovakia is one of them. She came to Prague to study information sciences at Czech Technical University in Prague back in 2014 but after two years she gave up the studies and started working. She still lives at her dorm Podolí. „First I liked it because of the people and all the social life one could get here. But now I just grew tired of it, I want my own privacy. I need to get out of here. As a non-student it also feels weird for me to live in dorm.“
Katarína was actively hunting for a place for about half a year but found nothing that suited her expectations. It was either expensive or on the outskirts of the city. She now considers her dorm room just as a place to sleep in and store her stuff and hopes that she will move out anytime soon.
Room for a girl only, no smokers, no pets, no kids, someone who goes home every weekend, this is how ideal roommate seems to look when one goes through adverts on Facebook groups for apartment hunting. If something good pops up it is gone within minutes. Sometimes you don’t get a reply, sometimes you even get it a year after you sent your message.
The average cost for single non-walkthrough room in a flat is around 8000 Czech Koruna (around 310€).
Old but still wanted
For a comparison, a place in double bed room in 17. Listopad dormitory you pay around 3900 Czech Koruna (around 151€). That might sound like a good deal but you never know who your roommate or bunk mates will be. But students just keep coming and there is not enough dorm rooms to fit them all in.
“For past two and a half years the demand for dormitories is really high. During the school year we are fully booked,” said Miroslava Hurdová, Head of the Accommodation Service for Charles University dormitories.
The Two Towers And A Construction Site
Two 17. Listopad’s dormitory buildings stands tall as towers near the Vltava river bank surrounded by a small hill, pension-villa, old villa turned to squat called Milada and a construction site. Sometimes you see sheep roaming free around the dorms or goats climbing on the hill.
Work on construction affected walls of student’s canteen which as result was shut down for most of the school year.
Kitchens in 17. Listopad are equipped only with double hotplate electric stoves shared usually among four people. For some of those hotplates it takes even half an hour just to get hot enough to boil water. If they are occupied and you are hungry, you just need to wait.
Equipment in dormitories is often as old as buildings themselves. Some went through partial reconstructions, some were just left as they are. On the online website listing of all Charles University dormitories you can find a description of Švehlova dormitory, there are two parts of it -an old one and a new one, which in this case means it was furnished in 1994.
Yellow paint on the walls is chipped from the tape used by students to hang posters on it to make it little less boring. In some floors yellow was repainted to white. You can see the yellow peek through the white. Painters were not very thorough.
They took a similar stand with “renewing” furniture. In some rooms it is still brown in others these simple utilitarian cupboards and shelves were repainted to greenish-blue colour.
In kitchen you can find old white metal cupboards placed above the sink, stove and small fridge.
If you look at them from below you can see thick layer of oil spread almost through their whole length. Thickest layer is directly above the stove. It is impossible to clean it up and it serves as a reminder of many generations of students that live here before you.
Because of high demand for dorms some students stayed here also during summer months when there is no school. This year in Prague temperatures daily raised above 30°C. Dorms do not have any air conditioning. People fought with the heat with aluminum foil placed on their windows to reflect sun rays, open doors to create draught and closed blinds during the day.
When you have no choice all of this will do.
This year the 17. Listopad dormitory raised prices for staying single in double-bed room. Before you could rent a double-bed room alone and pay around 5500 Czech Koruna (around 213€), now you have to pay a price as if there was two people living, so around 8000 Czech Koruna (around 310€).
Even with these negative aspects the 17. Listopad dormitory it is fully booked since the middle of summer. „Two year ago I was making reservation in late July. This year I had to hurry and make it a month earlier. When I came to Prague to pay deposit and I saw the construction site surrounded by fences I decided I do not want to come back and I am looking for a flat now,“ said Veronika Kráľová (23) from Slovakia, student of Cartography and Geoinformatics at Charles University.
Many of new students coming to dorms never lived outside their parent’s home before where they had their own rooms and didn’t have to share. Mária Lišková (23) from Slovakia is starting her Masters this year in Media Studies at Charles University.
She was aware of the hard situation of finding good place to rent so she applied for the dorm immediately after getting her acceptance letter. „I am a bit scared about having to share shower and toilet with the whole floor but I have no other choice,“ she says.