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Student housing assistance changes: Some win, others lose

Reforms to Finland's student housing assistance system go into effect in August. Once the changes are made, one third of students will see their housing support go down or disappear entirely, while the remaining two thirds of students are set to receive more financial help than they did before.

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File photo. Image: Yle

Next month Finland's student housing grant system will be abolished and students integrated into the general housing benefit system. In some cases, students will get twice the amount of housing benefit they received, but others will see their student housing support disappear entirely.

Up to August 1, when the changes go into effect, students receive a maximum of 201 euros per month support towards their housing costs.

After the changes - depending on how high their rent is - some students will be eligible to receive up to 400 euros per month.

According to the Social Insurance Institution Kela, some 40,000 students will lose their housing support outright, while 27,000 students will receive less in housing benefit than they did previously.

The majority - some 100,000 students - will receive more housing support than they did before, the agency says.

Kela says the incomes of live-in partners will now affect the amount received in benefit. Critics of the changes have said the new system doesn't bode well for poor students who live with a gainfully-employed partner.

It remains to be seen how many students will find it necessary to separate from their working partners in order to keep their housing assistance to continue going to school.

The changes may also affect those who live with roommates, with many students under the same roof, and jointly pay the rent under a single rental agreement. In such cases students will likely find it beneficial to make individual rental contracts for each occupant, and to make it clear to Kela that there is no romantic relationship involved.

Individual rental agreements for some

Pirjo Lipponen, Manager of Housing Affairs at the Student Village Foundation of Turku, says that she has informed couples living in student family housing that the foundation is not interested in making two separate rental agreements for each apartment.

"But for friends who live together under a single rental contract we've said they have the option for one tenant to become the principal tenant and the other a tenant. That way they both get their own lease," Lipponen says.

In light of the coming changes, one might think that demand for single room apartments would be increasing, but Lipponen says she has not noticed a change.

"In the summer students are willing to live in all kinds of housing," Lipponen says. "That is not the case in the spring - right now the most important thing [to students] is getting a roof over their heads."

Lipponen says it will mostly be students living with roommates who will end up splitting up their rental agreements between themselves.

"Sixty-four percent of our student housing are single-room apartments - the rest are family-, communal- and roommate flats. There won't be a problem for students living in communal apartments because they already have separate rental agreements," Lipponen says.

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