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General housing allowance: this time it should be personal


Statement 10 July 2017

General housing allowance must be made modern and equal by making it personal. Students begin to receive general housing allowance at the beginning of August – and contrary to the housing supplement of the student aid before it, general housing allowance finally 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.

The Student Union of the University of Helsinki proposes that the household-based nature of general housing allowance is abandoned in order to make the benefit system treat everyone in the same way.

For years, Kela’s employees have been assessing the nature of the recipients of the allowance’s relationships when making decisions on 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, the student is likely to lose their housing allowance entirely from the beginning of August onwards.

No one should have to report to the authorities anymore in 2017 on the arrangements they have made with the people they live with.

‘The processing of housing allowances should be founded on believing the applicants’ own reports. Using society’s resources and the working time of Kela’s staff for spying justified by the fear of abuse is irrational’, Ada Saarinen, member of HYY’s Board in charge of subsistence, sums up.

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 any people who live together and are of a similar age as a cohabitating couple, 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.

‘Housing allowance should be based solely on rental agreements. The people processing benefits should not be able to dictate that people’s relationship is comparable to marriage’, Saarinen appeals.

The power relations and dependencies created by the liability to provide maintenance do not belong in relationships. Society’s benefits should not place their recipients into unequal positions. The Student Union believes that housing benefits must be made personal regardless of how people live or the type of their family.

Assessing the nature of people’s relationships undermines the credibility of the benefit system, wastes society’s resources and has no place in the 2020s.

Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY)

Ada Saarinen, Vice Chair of the Board, subsistence
Laura Luoto, Chair of the Board, +358 50 595 0328 |, +358 50 543 9610