Students managed to save the future of student housing
A student living alone in the Helsinki metropolitan area spends on average 72.4 per cent of her income on housing. The percentage was about to soar even higher when the Finnish government planned to cut all state subsidies for the construction of new student apartments.
If the foundations that build student housing would have been denied the investment subsidies, students’ rents in newly built apartments would have gone up by 40 per cent. The construction of student housing could have just as easily seized entirely.
On October 8th the Minister of Agriculture and Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen announced on Twitter that the Finnish government has reversed their earlier decision and will continue to grant student housing projects investment subsidies.
Because students have worked all year to save the subsidies.
Campaigns, meetings, meetings and more meetings
The state will continue to support building student housing. Minister Tiilikainen announced that the Finnish government will retain the so-called investment subsidies, which The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland – or ARA for short – allocates. The student movement has advocated saving the subsidies the entire year of 2015 and has now succeeded in stopping a budget cut that was going to severely undermine student welfare.
– Cutting off the investment subsidies would have made the rent prices in new student homes soar as much as 40 percent. Students in Helsinki already spend over 70 per cent of their income on housing. The higher the rents get, the more university education becomes a privilege of the few, reminds Ella Keski-Panula, HYY Board Member in charge of housing.
A working group set by the Ministry of Environment proposed in their report in the end of the last electoral term in February 2015 that student housing be denied the investment subsidies. The cut would have saved the state 15 million euros, which is less than 0.03 per cent of Finland’s annual government budget.
The ministry’s report was a shock to student unions in the metropolitan area, and they reacted quickly with statements. HYY and AYY (the Student Union of Aalto University) made saving the investment subsidies the top priority of their parliamentary election campaign and started meeting candidates and experts interested in housing policy and construction in different political parties. The goal was to stop the proposed cut from winding up the in the next government programme.
The cabinet of the new Prime Minister Juha Sipilä decided to proceed with the cut nonetheless. When the new government programme was made public in the spring, HYY, AYY and SYL continued to meet up with the environmental committee members of all the government parties and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment. In the summer of 2015 the ministry was preparing a bill that would have cut the investment subsidies from student housing.
Lack of knowledge motivated a poor decision
HYY made yet another statement against the cut and reminded that it would only aggravate inequality in higher education and undermine student welfare dramatically. The student unions continued lobbing members of parliament and their assistants and officials even more aggressively.
– All parties were welcoming to our point-of-views and seemed to finally grasp that the proposed bill was based on insufficient knowledge. Cutting the subsidies would have hit student welfare and made it impossible for youths from disadvantaged backgrounds to consider higher education, says Ella Keski-Panula.
Cutting student housing from state subsidies could have also brought new construction into a complete halt. The foundations that build student apartments don’t have sufficient equities, and their operation is non-profit. The investment subsidies enable them to offer students homes at prices 40 per cent below market average.
Ella Keski-Panula, HYY Board Member
tel. +358 50 325 9175
ella.keski-panula (at) hyy.fi
Sofia Lindqvist, Specialist
tel. +358 50 543 9605
sofia.lindqvist (at) hyy.fi