The importance of housing policy will increase now and in the future when the production structure of the economy changes rapidly and the global trend of urbanisation progresses. For many Finns, the exclusion from working life can be avoided by making it possible to move to another city for work and studies. For this to be possible, it should be able to build homes flexibly wherever there is a demand for them.
An effective way to achieve a varied and equal urban structure, relieve the housing shortage in growth centres and allocating rental housing to those with the lowest incomes is to support the housing production for special groups. For example, in 2016 the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA) only allocated 15.8 million euros to the building and renovation of student housing. These subsidies will be used to build and renovate a total of 2,113 student homes. A small investment subsidy for student housing is already an efficient way to increase the number of student homes. In the future, it would be beneficial to allocate more of the subsidy to areas where it is used in an effective way and it is guaranteed to be allocated correctly.
As is well known, the need for student housing is concentrated to growth centres, where the majority of universities are located (image 1). Therefore, many students are competing against other low-income groups for the same homes in the growth centres, as only one in five students in the growth centres and approximately one in four students nationally live in student housing. The competition for reasonably priced homes reduces the opportunities of everyone on a low income to move to growth centres, which slows down the development and economic growth in these areas.
Expensive housing is also the main reason for the increasing number of students living on a low income.
Student housing can also be promoted through more flexible regulations. Many new housing trials have been carried out through creative planning. Creativity is required e.g. for changing empty office and factory buildings to homes, and within student housing for changing the less popular shared apartments to for example much more popular small studio apartments. For this reason, the regulations on minimum size should be softened for the types of housing where this can be beneficial. This must, however, be carried out without neglecting accessibility. It is also vital that norms relating to parking, civil defence shelters and planning, which currently limit the building of student housing, are made more flexible.
Social Policy Adviser Turkka Sinisalo