For the influencing opportunities of tenants


Advocacy work often goes unseen, as it is conducted ‘out of sight’ through, for instance, discussions with interest groups, texts written to advocate various issues and statements issued on laws when they are being updated. During March, we have, for instance, issued a statement to the Ministry of the Environment on the Act on Joint Management of Rental Buildings, which was circulated for comments. This might not sound particularly interesting at first, but the act affects the lives of many students, too! For this reason, we looked into the matter in more detail, cooperating closely with our national union, SYL.

But what even is the Act on Joint Management of Rental Buildings? The act defines the opportunities that tenants in state-subsidised housing cooperatives have to influence their own housing affairs. For students, I learned that this applies to the way that tenant democracy is realised in Hoas, for instance. The Act on Joint Management of Rental Buildings has provisions on issues such as the responsibilities of tenant committees and which administrative body decides on the allocation of sauna reservations.

The act is currently well and truly outdated, as it does not allow for the proper adoption of digital tools, for instance – something that would be extremely practical in student housing! In our statement, we thus emphasised issues including the special status of student housing, enabling digitalisation and making participation in tenant committees more flexible.

Students also have different needs concerning tenant democracy than other people. Students often spend a shorter time than average in a single student apartment. For this reason, it is vital for participation in tenant democracy to be as flexible and easily approachable as possible. It is also often challenging to get students involved in tenant democracy in student apartments. Our time is already filled with studies, work, organisational activities and other pastimes, which makes it hard to find time for tenant committees, for instance. Despite this, making students’ voice and will heard is of utmost importance. Would it not be best for everyone that people could join tenant committees at any time – not only at the beginning of the year? And what if you could vote on necessary repairs at your property through an app?

Voting on housing-related matters in this way and selecting tenants’ representatives for various administrative bodies is currently not possible electronically. By making changes that might seem small at first glance, we could significantly increase the opportunities of everyone living in student apartments to influence their own housing affairs. The advocacy work conducted by our Student Union is made up of small streams like this. By guiding them towards the right direction, we can genuinely influence matters in all parts of student life for the benefit of all students.

Sonja Naalisvaara

Board Member (City and living, health, development cooperation)