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How to find secure, student-priced housing in Strasbourg on short notice
August 30, 2013 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm an English teaching assistant who will soon leave for France with no housing pre-arranged for me and no help from the schools employing me or from any other government organizations, despite numerous polite requests for assistance. How can I find low-cost and secure housing in Strasbourg as soon as possible? Are there reputable agencies to help individuals in my situation?

Background information: In two weeks, I (a 22-year-old American female) will be flying from the U.S. to Strasbourg to begin a 7-month-long, government-sponsored English teaching assistantship at two local secondary schools. Despite numerous efforts to request practical help in finding a housing arrangement from both of my schools, from my contact teachers, from the school district board members in charge of language assistants, and from CROUS/CNOUS (the public organization that helps international students with housing, among other things), I have not found a place to stay. Every official whom I ask for help just sends me to another person in different organization or level of administration, and in the end, nobody has expressed any sympathy for my situation as it's nobody's ultimate responsibility to help me. As a language assistant and not technically a student, I also have no access to websites like Lokaviz.fr where international students could otherwise research low-cost housing options online.

While this is extremely frustrating and discouraging, I do understand that finding housing was always going to be, at the end of the day, my own responsibility, as no housing assistance was promised in my work contract. However, as a foreign, low-income, part-time, temporary worker, I face a number of obstacles to arranging for housing all by myself in France, including the fact that I don't yet have a French bank account, my net French income will be barely 800€, I don't have French guarantors, and I obviously can't tour apartments before I arrive. (I do have a few thousand dollars in savings and a letter of financial support from my father, but these are all coming from the U.S., so I'm not sure how convincing they would be to French landlords.) Furthermore, while I do have a C1/C2 level of French fluency, I don't trust my ability to quickly read, understand, and evaluate the legalese on documents I may have to sign, and I fear that I will appear vulnerable and easy for unsavory landlords to manipulate (I tend to be mistaken for a pre-teenager, anyway).

Firstly, I need a safe and secure place to live for the first week or two in Strasbourg while I attempt to set up a French bank account and begin apartment hunting in person. Wherever I stay initially will serve as my base of operations, so to speak. Unfortunately, hostels are not an option for me here (not secure enough when I'm carrying a suitcase with all my valuables and clothing for 7 months of living, and I'm a light sleeper who can't easily share a bedroom with others). Hotels near the center of the city, or near the neighborhood where I'll be working, are also extremely expensive, especially on such short notice. I know I may have to stay in a hotel for the first couple of nights, but paying $100+/night indefinitely for however long it takes me to find a satisfactory apartment with a willing landlord, might become prohibitively expensive.

Therefore, as quickly as possible, I want to actually find the apartment that will be my long-term living arrangement for the duration of my contract (October through April). I have a certain price range in mind (200€ to 500€ per month), a certain set of preferred neighborhoods (for proximity to my schools), and a basic desire for a safe, clean, and quiet environment in whatever studio apartment I can find. Again, I'm aware of resources like leboncoin.fr and appartager.com, but the majority of relevant listings there strike me as very dodgy, and I think it might take a very long time to weed through the bad places before finding ones that are acceptable (and that will take me!). And even then, I'm back to the problem of security deposits, renter's insurance, French residence tax, and other issues that I am not fully confident navigating in French all on my own.

What my question comes down to: Can you recommend any particular agency or organization that could help someone in my situation find and secure an appropriate housing arrangement in Strasbourg as quickly as possible (to minimize the time I must spend in expensive hotels)? I am willing to pay for such a service, if it can be provided by a reputable organization or individual. I am desperate for some reasonably priced agency or organization that I can trust to help me with this housing problem, since I seem to have exhausted all the official channels of French support to international students/young workers. If you have any other ideas for what a person in my situation might do to secure a safe and stable housing arrangement as quickly as possible, I'm open to almost anything at this point. Bonus: if you have any pointers for short-term lodging that is more secure/private than Couchsurfing but less expensive than regular hotels.
posted by datarose to Travel & Transportation around Strasbourg, France (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Airbnb has some great, cheap (and not dodgy) options in Strasbourg for temporary lodgings. Here's one that looks nice: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/772441

There are many more options on the site as well, some as low as $25 a night. When I've lived abroad, the best housing options have been found through asking around locally.
posted by Cwell at 5:12 PM on August 30, 2013


Are they any other TAs you will be working with? Can someone put you in touch with former TAs?
I don't know about Strasbourg specifically, but I've been moving all over the world for the past four years. Take a breath, don't stress about setting up permanent housing before you arrive. Find a decent hostel/cheap hotel to stay in for the first week or two. It should be somewhere central, or located between the schools where you'll be working. Once you get there and meet people and orient yourself, you can start working on the long-term housing issue.
My bet is that the teachers you're in contact with would feel better meeting you before they start giving you housing leads. Also, with your budget you'll probably be sharing a place with one or two other people, and you'd probably like to meet them first as well. This will all start coming together once you get there, so just take it all one step at a time. Good luck!
posted by sundaydriver at 7:27 PM on August 30, 2013


Have you joined the Strasbourg assistants Facebook group? If you ask around there, I'm sure there are people in your situation who can help you, and even possibly some past assistants who have advice. Some former assistants joined our Amiens assistants Facebook group and have been very helpful. A group of us who are going to be in the city of Amiens itself formed a separate group for apartment hunting, but we mostly agree that we're not going to find anything until we arrive in the city itself.

I would strongly recommend Couchsurfing until you have your apartment if you're not the sort of person who can do a hostel. I found someone in Amiens to host me who actually worked at my high school last year, and who's coming to pick me up at the train station. Otherwise, AirBnB is a good option.
posted by Devika at 9:35 PM on August 30, 2013


I think a good thing to remember is that hundreds of American assistants go to France every year and manage to find lodging. You'll find something, even if it seems scary and impossible at the moment. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
posted by Devika at 10:06 PM on August 30, 2013


At the start of this year, I landed in Paris with six months' worth of French lessons, no permanent accommodation sorted and I didn't know a single person in France to act as a guarantor. Within ten days, I had found a room in a beautiful apartment with a very nice French roommate for a reasonable price (relatively speaking -- I was in Paris after all!)

First step: take a deep breath. :-) As Devika said, many people are in the same boat, and you WILL sort something out.

For housing immediately on your arrival -- Airbnb.com - as has been already covered.

For housing longer-term -- if I were you (and I pretty much was!), I would not write off leboncoin.fr and appartager.fr so easily. www.colocation.fr is another good site to search on. I think a sublet from one of these sites is definitely the best option, if you are willing to share rather than having your own studio.

All those type of sites charge a membership fee before you are allowed to post an ad or see a poster's contact details, which I found cuts down on the sketchiness (but of course you should trust your own judgement). All the rooms that I looked at in Paris were people who already had a lease (or owned their apartment) who were looking to sublet a room, so there were no issues relating to renter's insurance or French residence tax. For the room I ended up renting, all I did was sign an agreement with my roommate and pay a month's rent in advance. My French was shocking, but the vast majority of people using apartment sharing websites are young people who speak at least some English, so I managed.

Feel free to send me a Memail if you have any questions at all, I am happy to help someone who is in the same position I was!
posted by fresh bouquets every day at 1:44 AM on August 31, 2013


We stayed in an Aparthotel in Strasbourg, so basically a small one room apartment with a tiny kitchen which is rented out like a hotel. Something like that could be better for your initial stay than a hotel room because they can be cheaper and you have cooking facilities etc to save money. Also sometimes they have longer term rates if you can find one aimed at the apartment side more than the hotel side. A quick look at booking.com shows this one is about 500 euro for two weeks and this one 600, as examples of what I'm describing. Clearly too expensive for your whole visit but will at least give you somewhere safe to be when you arrive.
posted by shelleycat at 2:53 AM on August 31, 2013


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