The general housing allowance has complicated living with a friend - it may still be a good option for you

The transition to the general housing allowance in 2017 has made the situation of students living together more difficult. Students living together under a joint lease are interpreted as one household at Kela. This means that cohabitants apply for the housing allowance together, and the housing allowance is based on their total income. It may still be a good option for you.
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Faster way to receive an apartment, cohabitation may not even affect the amount of the allowance

It is faster to receive a friend apartment than a studio. AYY has approximately 430 larger apartments (two-room, three-room, four-room apartments) suitable for friends in Otaniemi and 120 larger apartments in other locations in the Helsinki metropolitan area. On average, the queuing time for these apartments is one of the shortest; only 96 days (compared to 186 days for all housing types). Therefore, the queuing time may be only half of the queuing time for other apartments.

“Naturally, the queuing time for the apartment you are applying for depends very much on the time of the year and other applicants,” says Housing Advisor Saila Rappumäki. 

“And often students with children come first in the queue for larger apartments due to additional child scores,” adds Saila’s colleague Peppi Reinikka.

If both residents are entitled to the housing allowance, living together does not affect the amount of the housing allowance. The general housing allowance is intended to help low-income households with their housing costs. Kela pays the general housing allowance for housing costs. When forming a household, you can receive the general housing allowance collectively if both residents are entitled to it. If neither of you exceeds the income limits, you are entitled to the general housing allowance as a household. With the calculator on Kela’s website (in Finnish), you can easily check your eligibility for the general housing allowance and the amount of the allowance.
 

Options to separate friend leases / joint leases

In AYY’s friend apartments, residents sign a joint lease, and this is sometimes perceived as difficult in terms of the general housing allowance. However, there are still solid grounds for the joint lease, which is why AYY has not wanted to change its practices.

“We have considered the students’ rights for housing. This solution is seen as the only sensible option for students. In this way, we can offer a variety of housing forms and make it possible for students to live with their friends,” says Housing Specialist Kirsi Veijola.

There are mainly two options for separate leases, both of which are perceived as poor.

In the main tenant–sub-tenant arrangement, the apartment would be rented to the main tenant, who could take sub-tenants to the apartment to whom the main tenant would make their own leases. The main tenant is ultimately responsible for paying the full rent for the apartment. In the main tenant–sub-tenant arrangement, possible challenges are situations where a sub-tenant’s problems to pay the rent accumulate to the main tenant – the main tenant must pay the full rent to the landlord, even if sub-tenants have not paid their share. Any payment problems of the main tenant would also come as a surprise to sub-tenants.

The Act on Residential Leases has its own regulations regarding sublease, such as notice periods and restrictions on the right of possession that both parties to the contract should know and manage. Being a landlord is always a risk for a student. AYY must also take into account both ARA’s restrictions and AYY’s housing goals to provide housing to as many AYY members as possible. According to ARA’s resident selection guidelines, AYY housing should be offered to those with the highest need for housing, the lowest income and the least wealth. Under the Act on Residential Leases, AYY does not have the opportunity to influence who are chosen as sub-tenants. AYY could neither have influence on whether sub-tenants are members of AYY.

In the room-specific lease model, two-room apartments would be transformed into shared apartments.  When the leases are separate, they are not interdependent. Everything works fine when the apartment is offered as a shared apartment for the first time. However, the challenges begin when one of the residents moves out. It is rare that both friends move out at the same time, when the apartment could be directly offered to a next group of friends. A friend exchange could be made for an apartment, which is currently possible, meaning that a friend already living in AYY housing could move to the apartment. However, it is rare that such a friend can be found. When allowing separate leases, AYY would be forced to offer a vacant room to the next applicant in the shared apartment queue if no friend exchange is made.

AYY is constantly considering how leases and housing regulations work best for students. As these options are not beneficial for students, AYY has decided to continue with joint leases.
 

Housing policies for the benefit of students

In AYY’s opinion, the definition of a household in the reform of the general housing allowance is not reasonable. However, it is important that students are covered by the same housing allowance for all citizens. This allows students to receive housing allowance throughout the year, not only during the months when they study.

AYY will continue its advocacy work to change the definition of the household used by Kela. At the same time, we strive to develop our own processes as well as the rules governing our operations to enable better housing for our members.

 

Amendment proposals to the housing regulations were approved at the Representative Council meeting on 11 Dec 2019. The purpose of these amendments is to promote communal living and to speed up the exchange of friends both in shared apartments and friend apartments. The amendments are highlighted:

  • Addition to Section 8, Exceptions to the application process:
    A tenant in a shared apartment has the right to propose a new tenant from among AYY’s members eligible for housing to a vacated room in a shared apartment. The proposed tenant must already have a primary lease with AYY. 
  • Addition to Section 10, Waiting period due to receiving an apartment:
    When the applicant accepts AYY’s apartment offer, they are not offered a new AYY apartment from the same housing group before the tenancy has lasted for at least six (6) months. The waiting period of six (6) months may be waived in the case of a friend exchange or a suggestion of a friend to a shared apartment.

 

These amendments will enter into force on 1 Feb 2020. Read more about the amendments in the meeting material of the Representative Council. Detailed instructions for suggesting a friend to a shared apartment will be added to the website later this year. If you have any questions, please contact housing advisors at [email protected] or visit the office.

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