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General housing allowance must be made modern

06.03.2019

General housing allowance must be made modern and equal by making it personal.

Students moved to general housing allowance in August 2017. The change was positive for many, but many also lost their housing allowance entirely. Unlike the housing supplement of the student aid, general housing allowance takes real living costs into account. However, the housing allowance features a significant problem: it is awarded to the entire household. This amounts to an assumption that people living together are liable to provide maintenance for each other.

General housing allowance is paid to a household. People that are considered to belong to the same household include close relatives, married and cohabiting partners, and people who have rented an apartment on a shared rental agreement. People who have rented an apartment on separate rental agreements may also constitute a single household if the rental agreement includes a so-called clause on joint responsibility. If people living together have separate rental agreements, Kela may investigate whether they are in a cohabiting relationship with each other.

For years, Kela’s employees have been assessing the nature of the applicants’ relationships when making decisions on granting the allowances. Many applicants have seen their level of subsistence collapse because Kela has decided that their relationship is comparable to marriage. If a student’s partner or the person living together with them is in working life, for instance, the student is likely to have lost their housing allowance entirely.

Students often live in very different and unusual arrangements compared to the rest of the population. For this reason, students’ reality and Kela’s interpretations of people’s relationships often do not correspond with each other.

It is completely unreasonable that the people processing benefits at Kela can interpret almost any people who live together as cohabiting partners, unless they can convince Kela otherwise. Moreover, watertight proof cannot be defined in legislation. Why should it concern Kela whether people have sex, a shared account for food or an unspoken contract on care in their relationship? For many students, Kela’s decisions seem arbitrary and unjust.

The power relations and dependencies created by the liability to provide maintenance do not belong in relationships, either; society’s benefits should not place people into unequal positions. 

HYY demands that the housing allowance is made personal. This would mean that only the applicant’s own income is considered when they apply for housing allowance. Housing costs would refer to the housing costs of the household divided by the number of adults in it. A personal housing allowance is a modern and just solution not only for students but also for others who sorely need the allowance.

More information:

Anna Lemström
Member of the Board (elections, city (WSC), subsistence, equality (society))
050 475 1280
anna.lemstrom@hyy.fi

Hannele Kirveskoski
Specialist (subsistence, international affairs)
hannele.kirveskoski@hyy.fi
050 543 9608