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Friday's papers: Migrant voters, shared student flats and contactless payments

Record number of voters with migrant backgrounds, students prefer lone living and the limit of contactless payments rises.

Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva
Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

According to daily Keskisuomalainen, a record number of voters with foreign backgrounds will have voting rights in the general election on Sunday.

Citing figures from Statistics Finland, the paper says the number of people with migrant backgrounds who are eligible to vote has risen to approximately 100,000. This is about 30 percent more than in the last parliamentary election four years ago, and 50 percent more than in 2011.

About a third of the voters who speak a foreign language as their mother tongue speak Russian, Keskisuomalainen reports, followed by speakers of Somali and Arabic.

Voters with a migrant background make up two percent of all eligible voters, the paper adds.

However, many naturalised Finns often end up not taking advantage of their right to vote, Yle reported last month.

Shared flats to be demolished

The Foundation for Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (HOAS) will demolish hundreds of shared flats as students opt to live alone or with a partner, reports daily Helsingin Sanomat. HOAS will knock down buildings in the suburbs containing 750 shared flats and plans to build 3,000 one-bedroom flats instead.

Even though shared flats outside the downtown area are inexpensive, most students seem eager to live closer to the city centre.

For example, some of the shared flats located in the student village in Kivikko, northeastern Helsinki, have been empty for quite a while. The flats were renovated two years ago and the common saunas resemble hotel facilities with their log walls, HS reports. The closest metro station is minutes away and an electric car can be rented for one euro.

The rent for a 12.5 square-metre room in a shared flat amounts to about 250 euros, of which the student housing allowance covers 190 euros.

HOAS director Matti Tarhio says shared flats are a good way for first-year students to try out living on their own, but only few first-years take advantage of the bargain prices.

"With low living costs, students don't need to work part-time and can instead focus just on their studies. That way, they will graduate on time," Tarhio says.

HOAS has even created a flat mate application to help students find like-minded people to share accommodation.

"It's a combination of Tinder and an election compass," says Tarhio.

Low rents in Kivikko were a surprise to Mikko Immonen who moved from Rovaniemi to Helsinki last year to study pharmacology. He lives with his girlfriend in a 40-square-meter flat and together they pay less than 500 euros in rent per month. Of that 360 euros is covered by government rental assistance.

"The rent includes wifi, electricity, water, and the use of the sauna and laundry room, so this is excellent value for money," Immonen said.

HOAS will build one and two-bedroom flats across the capital region, including in Pasila, Kalasatama and Tikkurila, HS writes.

Contactless payment limit doubles

Daily Karjalainen writes that the threshold for contactless payments (where a debit or credit card is held close to a payment terminal) in Finland will double today – at least in theory. Most banks will allow purchases of up to 50 euros from Friday but not all shops have updated their card readers yet, the paper says.

For example, S-Group, Finland's largest grocery store chain, will not allow contactless payments of more than the current 25 euros until mid-May, when their systems have been upgraded.

"It is not possible for us to test our devices before the banks have updates theirs", said finance director Juha Ahola from S-Group in Karjalainen.

"Our shops will be busy with customers due to Easter and we cannot risk that our payment systems not working properly. That's why we have decided to postpone the upgrades until after the holidays," Ahola said.

According to Finance Finland, which represents Finland's finance sector, contactless payments have become increasingly popular in recent years, with about 80 percent of people using the no-touch form of monetary transaction. Contactless payments were introduced in Finland in 2013.

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