Student housing in Italy: current fears and future opportunities

August 23, 2023


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As a new academic year approaches, a wave of excitement builds among thousands of students who are on the brink of embarking on their university journey. The 75 universities in Italy are working tirelessly to prepare for the arrival of first-year students and to welcome back the returning members of the student community. This community is brimming with enthusiasm to step foot on campuses once again, forging connections with new acquaintances and reuniting with old friends. Italy maintains its status as a dynamic hub for students, boasting exceptional universities nestled within vibrant, student-centric cities.

The Italian university system enrols a substantial 1.8 million students1, among whom 54,900 represent the international student body2. Furthermore, Italy proudly holds a spot in the top three destinations for those opting to enrich their education through the renowned Erasmus+ program, with a remarkable 53,022 students choosing Italy as their study destination in 2021 alone3. Consequently, the commencement of the academic year is poised to unite this diverse array of students, infusing vitality into university campuses and urban landscapes throughout Italy.

However, reality has arrived to sour this optimistic perception, as the new beginnings that unfold are not always free from stress for some. This is particularly true for the numerous newcomers who find themselves grappling with the challenge of securing suitable housing in order to establish themselves and commence their fresh academic journey.

The pursuit of accommodation can evolve into a highly distressing process, leaving little room for these students to experience the anticipated excitement of their impending journey. Regrettably, in recent years, Italy has been confronted by a housing crisis, resulting in a situation where its universities can only provide housing for a small fraction of the student population. The availability of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation in Italy stands at a mere 5%, with cities such as Rome, boasting a student population of 220,500, offering a meagre 6,500 beds, equivalent to just 3% of the total student populace4.

Porta Nuova, Milan

The housing situation in Italy has deteriorated, leading to a shortage of university-owned accommodation and Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). As a result, students are primarily responsible for securing their own housing and often must rely on private landlords, which offers little assurance or stability regarding the quality and security of the places they will find. Additionally, a significant portion of Italian students reside with their parents due to the unavailability of affordable housing options. International students are similarly affected by this challenging situation. According to a recent study jointly conducted by the Erasmus Student Network and the European Students’ Union, 38% of Italian participants reported falling victim to scams related to housing5. The study also revealed that 28% of Italian respondents only managed to secure accommodation after arriving in Italy to start their Erasmus+ experience. The housing crisis has sparked widespread protests across the nation, as students unite to call for effective solutions.

Hence, it is apparent that addressing the housing crisis necessitates viable solutions. The high rental costs, the lack of PBSA, the prevailing insecurity, and the prevalence of scams during the housing search collectively cast a negative shadow over the esteemed reputation of the Italian education sector. In this regard, the potential role of PBSA in Italy's housing crisis reversal remains uncertain and is subject to further exploration. Several recommendations merit consideration, including:  

  • Scrutiny around private landlords and scams that are reported  
  • Better communication around the PBSA sector and its benefits (security and quality)
  • Stronger relations between universities and PBSA operators to better anticipate and accommodate the needs of the students

It is also important to understand that private landlords are a significant actor in the student-housing context; they need to be integrated in the search for solutions to student-housing crises across Europe. To address student-housing shortages and help improve the situation for students when it comes to housing, we shall encourage actors - PBSAs, housing associations, and universities, as well as private landlords - to work hand-in-hand.

In the meantime, the recent protests by students over the cost-of-living crisis have prompted efforts from public authorities to ameliorate the issue. With the help of research from HousingAnywhere, we have uncovered several promising solutions on the horizon:

As a response to the student protests, University Minister Anna Maria Bernini launched a work group, where a group of experts were asked to provide rapid answers on the issue of university housing and the right to study.6 This work group was to also align with the measures envisaged by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP). University rectors in the country stood behind her and agreed to work with mayors to turn existing state property into student residences.7

Moreover, the government has introduced other initiatives to take place by 2026 to ultimately increase the beds by 60.000 until 2026.8 Among the initiatives that have been proposed is also a tender launch by The Ministry of Economy and Finance to purchase unused or abandoned properties and transform them into student accommodation9. These promising initiatives are also happening alongside an investment wave in Italy, as investments in new student residences reached a record of 160 million euros in the first quarter of the year10. As such, the potential role of PBSA in mitigating Italy's housing crisis remains a subject of anticipation.  

The imminent release of the Student Living Monitor research report by The Class Foundation, scheduled for publication on September 6th, is poised to shed additional light on the intricate relationship between student housing and its influence on students' overall well-being and contentment. Furthermore, the report will offer insights into the notably elevated satisfaction levels reported by students residing in Purpose-Built Student Accommodation.

At Student Living in Italy, we are also holding an exclusive presentation going through the details and findings of this report. To join us in these conversations about student living in Italy and the well-being of students across Europe, click here.

1 Italy: people with a university degree by age group | Statista

2 Italy | Education at a Glance 2021 : OECD Indicators | OECD iLibrary (

3 Erasmus+ in Italy in 2021 | Erasmus+ (

4 Savills Italy | Student housing supply and demand in Europe

5 International Student Housing: How are exchange students in Europe navigating the housing crisis? by Erasmus Student Network AISBL - Issuu

6 Uni minister launches work group on student rent crisis

7 Conversions needed to provide student beds quickly - rectors

8 Alloggi universitari, il problema non è solo a Milano: negli studentati pubblici c'è posto solo per il 5% dei fuori sede (

9 The project that transforms unused buildings into residences for university students is underway (

10 Italy rides the PBSA wave with record investment in the first quarter

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