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Comment: Students’ move to general housing allowance must be clinched

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commitment | 31.8.2016

The undersigned student unions thank the Government for its plans to have general housing allowance cover students. This move would give students a more equal status with other population groups and significantly improve many students’ subsistence.

Sipilä’s Government decided to begin preparations in the spring for having general housing allowance cover students. The discussion still continues, and decisions on students’ subsistence will now be made again in the autumn budget session.

The student unions consider the move to general housing allowance as a necessary reform. At its current level, the housing supplement of the student financial aid is completely inadequate for covering the ever-increasing rental costs students face. As many as one sixth of students getting student aid spend their entire study grant towards housing costs. The situation is the most challenging in large cities with a high rental level. Rents have gone up, while the housing supplement of the student aid, amounting to a maximum of €201.60 per month, has not been increased since 2005.

It is of utmost importance that the move occurs at the same time as the massive cuts to student aid come into force. When around 80 euros per month is cut from student aid in autumn 2017, the need for a reform of the housing benefit system is massive. The amount of general housing allowance granted to a household depends on their home municipality, with €406.40 being the maximum.

However, the general housing allowance is not without its problems. Whereas the housing supplement of the student aid is personal, general housing allowance is granted to the entire household. Improving general housing allowance so that it is granted to the individual would put an end to internal dependencies in families and improve the situation of many low-income individuals in other population groups too.

Nonetheless, general housing allowance improves the situation for those who have it the worst: those living in expensive apartments because of the housing shortage and those who have no other income apart from student aid.

When other students move to general housing allowance, the subsistence of students with a family will, however, worsen. This is due to the fact that receiving student aid does not currently decrease the amount of general housing allowance. In case this concession for students with a family is not kept in effect after the student aid reform, it would finally be time to make a parent’s increase to student aid.

The move to general housing allowance is a big structural change that has a decisive effect on students’ subsistence. The transitional period may be difficult for many: while student aid increases for some, it decreases for others. As a whole, general housing allowance is still a step in the right direction as it directs aid towards those that need it the most, it is paid all year round and it has a better correspondence to actual rental costs.

Milja Asikainen, Chair of the Board, Aalto University Student Union

Susanna Jokimies, Chair of the Board, Student Union of the University of Helsinki

Lasse Heikkilä, Chair of the Board, Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä

Kati Hännilä, Chair of the Board, Student Union of the University of Oulu

Mikael Malkamäki, Chair of the Board, Student Union of the University of Tampere

Riina Lumme, Chair of the Board, Student Union of the University of Turku

For further information, please contact the chairs of the student unions’ boards.