Low-cost employee housing has traditionally served as an attraction for city workers. Now rents are already approaching market prices and apartments are standing empty.
The horse manure stinks. The plate weights rattle behind the wall so that the dishes ring. Otherwise, the department master Jari Itkonen has been satisfied with its 20-square-meter employment apartment, which is located in connection with Ruskeasuo Sports Hall in Helsinki.
“So before this rental rally, which has left the box completely,” he adds.
Itkonen performs technical maintenance work in sports facilities in the western part of Helsinki, such as the Swimming Stadium, the Race Hall and various beach areas. In 2017, he decided to move Jokela closer to his workplace and received a studio apartment from the city for the Ruskeasuo riding manege.
Accommodation originally intended for the administrators of the canceled 1940 Summer Olympics has since been refurbished into apartments. In practice, Itkonen lives at his workplace, as he is also responsible for the maintenance of the Ruskeasuo sports hall.
Housing is affordable, but the gym carries noise in the evenings. That’s why Itkonen contacted the city when a slightly bigger and quieter studio apartment was vacated next door.
Early in the year, the urban environment industry came up with an answer that made him shocked: the rent for a new apartment would rise to more than € 300 higher than what the previous resident had paid for it. HS has seen an e-mail correspondence between Itkonen and the housing unit, which shows the amounts.
“So you should shell out more than 750 euros for a studio located in a sports hall. There are not even any normal common areas here, such as a laundry room or a sauna, ”Itkonen says.
The city justifies the increase on the grounds that Statistics Finland’s averages are now used to determine rents table rentals. According to Itkonen, the average price per square meter in lease agreements entered into before 2017 was 12 euros, while in new agreements it rises to almost 24 euros.
The rent for the same apartment may therefore be up to 100% higher in the new contract. In some places, the rents already correspond to the fair market price in the area, and in addition the taxpayer interprets the employee’s home as a taxable benefit.
“It’s also crazy to have Hekka in the same area, for example [Helsingin kaupungin asunnot] the price per square meter of apartments is almost half lower, ”Itkonen wonders.
Employee housing rents follow the development of market rents in accordance with the decision of the city chancellery, says the unit manager of the Helsinki housing unit Maarit Kontio. Rents, he said, are lower than the average rent in the area.
In current older leases, on the other hand, prices may clearly lag behind. In the case of Itkonen, Ruskeasuo’s apartments were transferred from the Finnish Sports Agency in November 2018 to the management of the urban housing unit, at the same time the residents and the contracts as such were transferred to it.
In other words, there have been no abnormal increases in rents, but the rent for new contracts is determined according to different principles than for old ones. This is partly due to the organizational reform of the City of Helsinki in 2017.
“There is, of course, a difference between the rents of existing and new contracts. For example, not all old contracts have been upgraded due to the terms of the time, so the prices are much lower, ”says Kontio.
According to him, the regional boundaries used by Statistics Finland have also changed recently, which means that the apartments on the adjacent street may appear cheaper, for example. In addition, large studios, for example, may be more expensive than semi-detached apartments of almost the same size, as the statistics take little account of the number of square meters.
“The rent may therefore seem strange, and we have looked at the classification for these exceptions on a case-by-case basis.”
HS In addition to Jari Itkonen, I interviewed a woman working in child welfare who also lives in the city’s employment apartment. He does not want to appear in the story under his own name because of the sensitivity of his profession.
Since 2015, the woman has lived in Pasila in a housing association, where in practice most of the city’s employment apartments. He lives in a two-room apartment but would like to move to a bigger apartment soon due to his family situation.
In her case, the increase would be several hundred euros, the woman has dropped. Housing provider from the city’s website one can see that the rent level is already moving close to the market price in the area.
“I myself am now paying a reasonable € 750 for my two. In the adjoining staircase, the studio, which is about 20 square meters smaller, already has more than 1,000 euros of rent fishing, ”he says.
“I don’t hope to move to a bigger employee housing after this.”
Although According to the woman, it was really difficult to get the desired employment apartments in the past, for example, there are several apartments available in the Pasila housing company. The apartment of a neighbor who moved out in November is still uninhabited.
“In the housing situation in the Helsinki metropolitan area, there is a big problem if the city is leaving the apartments empty,” the woman says.
Maarit Kontioka of the city also does not consider it appropriate for the apartments to stand empty. At the beginning of May, the housing unit providing employment housing had 105 apartments vacant. Now the figure is a bit lower, as the workload caused by the corona has been dismantled.
Last year, nearly half of those selected as residents refused the offered apartment. According to Kontio, most do not state the reason for the refusal, but it is usually the location, the square, the rent or the condition.
“We’ve found that sometimes expectations about an employee housing are unrealistic. For example, we want an apartment specifically in the center or assume that the rent is really low, ”says Kontio.
Pasila a resident woman says low-cost employment housing has in the past been an attraction for city workers moving elsewhere.
“Now the rents are such that you can get private already cheaper. There would be an acute shortage of workers in the child protection sector, but wages in the social security sector will soon be able to afford to live even in a company housing. ”
For a woman, housing has been one of the biggest incentives to stay in town for work. After the increases, he sees no reason not to look at jobs from the private sector.
“And I’m not the only one thinking about these things.”
Maarit Kontio knows that the city’s attractiveness as an employer may suffer. But in employment housing, we have to monitor the market level, he says.
“There are few options. We are a big landlord and we cannot trample on prices. ”
According to Kontio, there have been “some” complaints about the rent. According to him, the city office is considering how the situation could be developed.
According to Kontio, the city is already renting out housing at a loss.
“And when you look at the current housing queues, you can’t go for price flexibility without compromising equal treatment for city dwellers.”
In the brown swamp resident Jari Itkonen has complained about this to many different parties, even the deputy mayor of the urban environment To Anni Sinnemäki. So far, no progress has been made.
According to him, the disclosure of the problem has only led to the fact that the rent of other employment apartments in the riding manege has also started to be latticed higher.
“That’s the easiest way to solve the situation, and then raise the rents of others in the name of equality.”
Itkonen does not intend to change yet. If that happens, he will turn to the private market. Moving to a neighboring apartment would become too expensive.
“It feels crazy to sniff this, but I’m a guy of principle. I could vote for it on my feet and go to live in the frame municipalities again, but it hurts me, the employer and the environment. ”
Employee housing in Helsinki
About 2,000 rental apartments owned by the city are used as employment apartments in various parts of Helsinki. There are currently about 1950 inhabitants.
Employees in all industries can apply for housing. A significant part is used by the social and health care industry and the education and training industry.
The apartments are employment-related and the lease is valid for the time being. Rent security deposit is not charged.
When living in an employment apartment, the resident receives a taxable housing benefit, which is calculated as income. The tax value of apartments in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is higher than for apartments located elsewhere in Finland.
Sources: City of Helsinki, Tax Administration