In Italy, a growing number of students are mobilising in a peaceful protest against high rent costs in university cities under the slogan “Senza casa=senza futuro” (No housing=no future). Led by the university students' union UDU (Unione degli Universitari), they demand affordable education and are are making their voices heard across the country.
The student protest against high rents in Milan began in early May, when engineering student Ilaria Lamera set up a tent in front of the Polytechnic. "After months of commuting, I started looking for a place to live in Milan and realised that all the rooms were starting at 700 euros a month, not including utilities. It seemed incredibly unfair to me: even if I could pay for it, the principle didn't seem right". The mobilisation then spread like wildfire to many other university cities.
Over the years, Italy has seen a growth in the number of off-site students and, according to the data published by CDP, there may be more than 800,000 this year. However, Italian students are suffering from the rampant rising of rent costs in university cities. The situation is difficult both in large cities such as Rome, Milan, Bologna and in smaller cities like Modena and Padua, where rent prices have increased exponentially in recent years. This situation makes it extremely difficult for students to find affordable and decent housing, and forces them to spend prohibitive sums and yet live in precarious and mediocre housing conditions, or face long daily commutes to universities.
Only 15 thousand beds have been built since 2000 while several residences were closing because of the lack of investments. Therefore, while other European countries like Germany focused on public student housing, Italy’s immobilism has forced students to pour into the open rental market. In this scenario, the strong need for beds is met by the market reacting with a clear increase in prices, indeed due to the insufficiency of public supply. As a matter of fact, from January 2015 to 2022, the increase in rent prices (taking into account all types of residential properties) is around the 30%.
In response to the protest, the Minister of University and Research Anna Maria Bernini has announced that new funds will be released and allocated for the creation of around 100 thousand beds by 2026. 960 million euros will come from the PNRR, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, and other 400 million euros will be provided through other state funds. At first, the measures taken by the Ministry may seem to result in good investments but unfortunately, digging further, all the limitations and criticalities of this intervention emerge.
The fundamental problem is that the funds will be mainly given to private operators and companies, which partially contradicts with the original objective of the PNRR to guarantee the "Right to Study": the result is that most of the beds (between 60% and 80%) have been put on the open market. The absence of a regulation that helps to allocate the beds to students in need who apply and enter the university benefits rankings, and the absence of monitoring by the Ministry, generates some serious problems. Moreover, many of these beds are not even new but are made available in existing facilities with rents that still reach 800 euros per month.
After conducting a survey about the topic, the university students’ union UDU has written to the Minister Bernini, asking her to open a dialogue with their representatives. Besides, UDU has prepared a manifesto containing ten proposals to improve the students’ housing conditions.
The ‘tent protest’ against high rents wants to draw the public attention to the problem of housing, since it does not only affect university students but also workers and families. At this point, it is crucial that academic institutions, local authorities and the government take charge of this urgent issue and commit to finding concrete solutions both in the short and long terms.
 Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the Italian National Promotional Institution
 Landlords can change the terms and conditions of a renewed lease and increase the amount of rent to their choosing.