Highlights NSBO Conference Helsinki 2019

25 jun 2024

In 2019 NSBO arranged a conference in Helsinki. Here is a summary of the speakers at the conference.

Finnish student housing – according to the students

Titta Hiltunen, board member of The national union of students

Did you know the student housing market in Finland works so well the student’s hardy reflect on it? At least according The Finnish national union of students and Titta Hiltunen. It is easier to get student accommodation than regular housing, and it is a lot cheaper than the regular market as well. From a student perspective, this all works out in their advantage so why change it?

In Finland a lot of students live away from home, often because access to your first own accommodation through student housing is easy. For Titta this is beneficial from other perspectives than just the educational; it allows you to move on and enter adult life. If she was to ask for any improvements it would be more housing, especially in the Helsinki area, where the shortage leads to many students having to live at home.


Finnish student housing – according to the politicians

Kimmo Tillikainen, housing minister, Centre party

The state’s involvement in student housing takes form in the shape of subsidized loans and investment grants for construction and renovations. These come with special regulations regarding rent levels and letting out exclusively to students. To attract more private operators, they recently made some small adjustments to the grants.

The government has recently also changed the building regulations to better fit the conditions of student housing. The minimum accommodation area has been reduced from 20 square meters to 16 square meters. The minimum share of accessible student housing has also been adjusted, from 100 per cent to only 5 per cent. This is because the students live for such a short period of time in their accommodation and it makes it easier to build more and affordable housing. The actual need does not exceed 5 per cent either, so all student groups are considered.


Finnish student housing – according to the student housing companies

Lauri Lehtoruusu, Representative SOA

In Finland there are around 275 000 students enrolled in higher education, and 77 000 of these live in the 44 000 student housing units all over the country. Only four per cent live in their parental home, which is the lowest number in Europe. 27-32 per cent live in purpose-built student housing. In many cities there are only one operator and they are often non-profit. The satisfaction among student tenants is in general high.

The Finnish student housing market experiences two trends at the moment. The first one is that students now are eligible for more housing allowance, increasing their demand for more expensive housing on the private market. The demand for expensive studios is leaving older, cheaper shared student accommodations vacant. The other one is in regard to placement; the Finnish higher education institutions are concentrating their campus structures for better spatial efficiency. This negatively effects the demand for student housing which used to be in campus close locations. But it also offers new opportunities for active campus development including student housing.

Learning in student housing

Susanna Graziano, International manager, Camplus

Camplus is an Italian student housing company with over 1 500 beds in what they call Living learning residences – a student accommodation with focus on learning and developing professional skills. The programme is accredited by the Italian ministry of education and research, and students are selected by credit of merit. Therefore, it is in very high extent a part of the students’ education and future careers.

The programme includes a blend of learning and social activities, and initially there is more focus on the social activities in order to create a community and sense of belonging. The learning activities then takes focus and includes learning sessions after class, guest teachers, study visits and projects. The aim is always to develop certain skills and foster cooperation and team building.

Susanna is aware of the fact that not everyone has the possibilities to fully implement the living and learning programme, but there are small things everyone can start with. Her suggestion is to engage the student to organize smaller activities and collaborate with the university. Always have learning and social outcomes in mind, no matter how small the event is.

In the follow-up sessions the panel discussed how to adapt learning in student housing to existing and future learning conditions. Digitalization will decrease the usage of classrooms and move the learning to other types space, for example student housing. A simple thing such as adding a white board can activate a space to become a place for learning. A more specific learning student accommodation could in the future become a product for a segmented market, for example international students.


Contemporary co-living

Kristján Eggertsson, Architect, KRADS

The word on everybody’s lips right now is co-living. In stark contrast to the more private living that has been prominent in the last decades, it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has historical roots in everything from ancient tribal living to culture related communities in the 60’s and 70’s. Living together has several benefits, for example preventing social isolation and creating a sense of community. It also supports a denser a more diverse urban fabric as well as sustainable living.

In a contemporary perspective, what is driving the interest in co-living? Later entry to adulthood and the rise of the global nomad has created a market for co-working and co-living spaces with an international target group. An increase in loneliness as well as raised cost of living and the sharing economy are also driving factors for the co-living hype. The key components for creating communities in co-living are communal areas, an environment that ensure a sense of community and placement in the city which connects to the rest of the society.

Community and well-being in shared accommodation

Inger Lise Kastås, Student Welfare Officer, Sit

A common trend in the Nordic countries is a higher demand for private accommodation and less interest in shared accommodation. In Trondheim, Norway, the situation is partly the opposite with a sustained high interest in social living. Student often stay for several years in shared accommodation and both the involvement and satisfaction is high. Perhaps it is a question of expectations? Sit puts in extra resources to maintain the high level of interest and satisfaction for shared accommodation. Why? They believe it prevents isolation and promotes mental health. The work they put in is not subsidized in any way but Sit believes the investment prevents other future costs.

A new initiative Sit launched last year is a weekly visit from the cleaners. The task of the cleaners is not just to check the level of cleaning, but also to talk to the students and see if there are any issues that needs to be resolved. In that way they become the link between Sit and the students. Sit also has a contact person in each shared flat for the same reason. The students notice that the increased focus from Sit helps them to improve their accommodation and solve issues. The cooperation with the students promotes safety, creates well-being and enables the students to improve their living situation.


Nordic highlights – Denmark

Per Juulsen, Kollegiekontoret i Aarhus

The Danish government has approved new legislation in order to improve integration and safety in several socially exposed areas in Danish cities. The ways of doing this are different, one example is to open up the areas with new roads, demolition of old housing blocks and the introduction of office buildings and student housing.

One of these areas is Gellerupparken in Aarhus where they will build 354 studios in the middle of the area. The students are seen as a positive resource and addition to the area, but with no education sites nearby the needs of the students are not fully considered. In order to integrate the building with the area there will be several businesses at ground level and the courtyards will be open for everyone during daytime. This will provide an edge zone to the streets filled with activity, creating a nice and safe place to be. Another project is the Copenhagen area Mjölnerparken. There they have chosen to, instead of building the student accommodation in a separate building, decentralize the housing and integrate it as part of four buildings. The aim is to mix the students, a model Per Juulsen believes could be more efficient.

Nordic Highlights Sweden

Anders Flodin, KI Housing AB

KI Residence Solna is a collaboration between Akademiska Hus, Karolinska Institutet (KI) and KI Housing. The project consists of 411 beds spread over three houses – each with their own character. The whole project is especially adapted for international students and guest researchers. The idea of the project is to add value to the education offer from Karolinska Institutet. Therefore, there is special focus on clustered flats, commons spaces and student experience. The rooms are fully furnished and the kitchen fully equipped. All the students have to do is show up.

The ideas for this come from several study visits around Europe as well as a survey among international students. The top three wanted features from the survey was common areas, organized activities and a café/bar. When it comes to services the most demanded service was nothing, but those who request services favoured departure cleaning and bed linen/towels. The houses all have their own functions, but all the students have access to all houses, and in that way also the reception, common spaces, study rooms etc.


Nordic Highlights Iceland

Dröfn Sigurdsdottir, Félagsstofnun stúdenta (FS)

For FS mental health and a sense of belonging has been top focus during the last couple of years. This means improving the community, shared spaces and common areas as well as bringing residences together. Regarding the buildings this is implemented by always including common areas in new student housing projects and creating transparency in kitchens and entries in order to make students visible for each other. They are also trying out a new application process for a new type of housing so students easier can choose their roommates.

When it comes to communication personal contact is vital for creating a good relationship with the students. Friendly faces and always meeting the students when moving in is two of FS:s strategies. At the start of every term they also arrange a welcome party for all the students living in shared accommodation.