Student housing, the aspirations of students, and the municipal elections

What is student housing and what is its significance for students’ daily lives? Also, what kind of housing-related decisions in cities should be made from the perspective of students? If you are considering the answers to these questions, you have come to the right place!

The housing needs of students differ from the rest of the population

We students are a special customer group in the housing market. We need affordable housing, move frequently, and often seek housing for only a short period at a time. The most sought-after homes are small – mostly studio or one-bedroom flats.

We often look for residences within the vicinity of university campuses and with good transport links. The reason is that student transactions and mobility are focused on campuses and are often based on public and light transportation. The desire to live close to one’s own community is an important need for students!

Demand created by students also has its own characteristics: it is seasonal. With the arrival of new students, demand is high, whilst in the summer months the need is lower.

Because the needs of student housing are very different in nature from many other populations, it is really important to have a good, sustainable urban policy for student housing in college and university towns!

Housing policy is part of urban policy

Student housing is substantially a matter of urban policy and in the hands of decision-makers. The city uses zoning to determine where student housing will be built, what it will become, and how much it will be needed. The city can also take public transport planning, service location, non-segregation and cross-sectoral sustainability considerations into account in its decisions, so these are not simple resolutions.

These decisions require the co-ordination of a wide range of perspectives and rationales.

Sometimes there are even major political differences in housing policy. Decision-makers may see private and non-profit housing in different ways and may favour one or another of them in their decisions. Some emphasise the cityscape as based on motoring whilst others get excited about cycling. Attitudes towards financially supporting housing production or preventing segregation may differ from one council group to another, as may views on sustainability issues related to housing and housing production. These differences of opinion can be deep and significant.

Housing policy is therefore a key part of municipal policy and has many issues to address. The municipal elections, postponed till the summer, will soon be just around the corner, so the positions of decision-makers will be updated once again.

Students’ wishes for housing

Student housing is an important issue in city decision-making. On a daily basis, students as a whole feel it in their wallets, when they travel in order to study, when residing in their homes, and in many other ways. This is a holistic issue that affects students’ everyday lives.

Therefore, students will naturally have a number of expectations and hopes regarding housing this spring as the summer municipal elections approach (despite the change in schedule). Here are a few of the key – decision-makers and candidates: be sure to take notes!

 

  • Municipalities must record the annual production targets for student housing

The need for student housing is local and can vary in quality and quantity over the years. Old dwellings can be taken out of service. Student needs may vary and the total number of students may change. Therefore, in housing programs, student housing should be considered separately, and city-specific targets should be set for their production. In some large cities, only a small proportion of students have sufficient student housing, so it is quite important to constantly increase the amount of student housing based on need.

  • The zoning regulations must be kept simple for student housing

The supply of student housing is almost invariably produced on a cost price basis, i.e. rents are charged only to the extent necessary to meet costs. Therefore, the cost of building student housing should not be raised unnecessarily by overly detailed or demanding land use indications.

  • Student housing must be located close to campuses and with good transport links

Student mobility and transactions are directed differently than in other population groups. Few have cars at their disposal. Therefore, when investing in student housing, efforts must be made to find locations where students’ daily lives and mobility needs can be efficiently organised.

  • The construction of parking spaces should not be necessitated for student housing

The expenses of parking spaces in cost-effective student dormitories are transferred directly to rents, regardless of whether such spaces are actually needed. The need for parking spaces must be considered on a case-by-case basis and should in no way be required by land use indications.

  • The property tax on public housing must be kept low

A lower property tax rate should be set for student housing as non-profit properties because – like other expenses – property tax is transferred directly to rents in student housing and thus to the wallet of very low-income students.

  • Other important matters for students

 

When building student housing, attention must be paid to quality, easy access, accessibility for the disabled, environmental friendliness, comfort and support for a sense of community. In construction and maintenance, special attention must be paid to housing health in terms of, for example, indoor air quality.

 

So here is a small information package on what student housing means in practice and what kinds of aspirations students have with regard to housing. Housing is indeed a central element in everyone’s life, and meeting the needs of student housing in particular is one of the most important and influential factors for students as a population group. So we hope from you – our municipal decision-makers and municipal election candidates – the wisdom to take  students’ hopes and wishes strongly into consideration in their influence on your future election campaigns!

Let’s build better, more sustainable and more vibrant college and university towns together!

 

Akseli Rouvari
Executive Board Member

Akseli Rouvari
Board Member, communications, social policy (student finances, housing), the environment and climate

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