Six-month queues for international students not uncommon.
STUDENT housing continues to be a problem in Helsinki in 2013. One out of every 10 students has difficulty in getting an apartment; some new international students are still waiting for one even after six months in the queue.
“The housing situation has worsened during the past years,” says Aino Jones, board member of the Student Union of University of Helsinki, specialised in housing and international affairs. Statistics from the Foundation for Student Housing in Helsinki Region (HOAS) have shown a rapid growth in student housing applications, from about 3,500 in 2004 to nearly 7,000 in 2011. Last year, a slight improvement has been seen, as application numbers decreased to 6,000. “This year the housing queue is not quite as long as it was last year, but along the same levels anyway.”
The main reason for the shortage of student housing has been the general rise of rents in the housing market. Currently, a room in a student apartment would cost around 230 euro per month on average, but in the private market the price can rise to 400 euro per month, which can still only cover the price for a shared apartment.
“It’s quite a lot of money when you consider the budget students are able to spend on housing”, says Jones.
For new international students, the housing situation is even worse. Firstly, they do not receive student grants from the Finnish government. Secondly, they lack connections with the local market and information on other possible rental sources.
The student union has been cooperating with the City of Helsinki and HOAS to help new international students with their housing problems by providing information on the current housing situation and private housing market. They have in some cases also provided temporary accommodation for new students.
“Housing is one of our biggest operations. We are trying to influence the city into making decisions in terms of the benefit for students,” Jones says.
“It sounds like a very bureaucratic achievement, but it is very important in solving the housing problem”, says Liina Länsiluoto, Customer Relation Manager of HOAS.
Due to the shortage of student housing, HOAS has stopped providing student housing in Helsinki to students studying outside the Helsinki region. Students in Universities of Applied Sciences have also been required to accrue at least 30 credits every year in order to be able to live in a student apartment, which is higher than the number of credits required to apply for a student grant.
LEHTIKUVA / MARKKU ULANDER / HANNU KIVIMÄKI
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