The Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) thinks that the state should finally step up and unite the municipalities of the capital region by force, if needed, into a whole with a common goal through a common tax basis. HYY sees this as the only way of speeding production of rental housing not only on paper and during speeches, but in actual reality.
The new programme for housing and land use, as proposed by the Helsinki city board includes a raise of the production target for student and youth housing to 300 flats a year, which would be an awaited move in the right direction.The city council discussed the programme in it's meeting on August 29, but has yet to reach a decision. The proposition makes it clear that within the city there is a will to solve the shortage of student housing. However, the housing shortage for students, as well as for all low income groups, will only be solved by speeding up the production of state-subsidised rental housing.
"Good will isn't enough anymore. Affordable rental housing has hardly been built, despite promises and targets. All low income groups, including students as well service industry employees, suffer", says Heikki Luoto, vice-chair of the HYY board.
In Helsinki alone there are over 60,000 students in higher education. In a recent study the students of the University of Helsinki estimated the limit of what they could spend on housing to be 446 euros, the median being 400 euros. A student is not able to accept a flat that is too expensive, and ten per cent of the students of the University of Helsinki have experienced homelessness for a period of over two weeks. A student flat is the only viable option for an increasing number of students.
Student housing is one of the rare forms of rental housing where the production targets set have been achieved in recent years. Despite this, the shortage of student housing has but worsened. There are enough student flats for only a third of the students of the University of Helsinki, the rest being at the mercy of the private housing market. Rents of flats on the free market have climbed out of the reach of students.
"It seems that as long as the municipalities of the capital region focus on their own interests and compete for so-called good tax-payers, the number of affordable rental housing will not grow. Letters of intent between the state and municipalities are clearly not a good enough incentive as they have not increased the production of rental housing. The move from encouragement to stronger measures must be made" demands Luoto.
Heikki Luoto, Vice-chair of the board
Katri Korolainen-Virkajärvi, Secretary general
HYYs solutions to the housing shortage (in Finnish)