The Finnish Government has proposed changes to general housing allowance. The Government proposal suggests restoring the part-apartment norm, which would mean that the acceptable housing costs when granting housing allowance for people who rent part of an apartment or a studio apartment of under 20 square metres would be 20% less than for others living in the same area. In Helsinki, for instance, the available allowance for a one-person household would decrease by 82 euros in a worst-case scenario.
The fact that the cut would be directed towards students in particular was clearly pointed out already in the preliminary debate held in the Finnish Parliament: students often live in shared or small apartments and cannot apply for social assistance to replace their loss of income. The cut would be simply unreasonable, as the spending cuts of recent years have already affected students the most, and many already say they are using over half of their income for housing costs.
Together with the household interpretations of general housing allowance, the part-apartment norm would further decrease the popularity of shared living. Only 10% of students applying for an apartment from the Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (Hoas), for instance, are applying for a room in a shared apartment as it is, and the part-apartment norm would further decrease the number of applicants. The Government proposal admits this behavioural impact. If student apartments are left empty, the result would be rental increases for everyone living in student apartments. From the perspective of national economy, it makes sense to make decisions that enable cheap student housing when student housing is supported with tax revenue.
The part-apartment norm is meant to achieve savings, but the proposal is hastily prepared and its impacts have not been properly assessed. Due to all of this, we hope that this norm will be removed from the legislative proposal, as its budgetary impact is uncertain while it is sure to complicate shared living.
Vice chair, HYY's boad
Member of HYY's board
Specialist, subsistence, international affairs