Where lies the village spirit?

Text: Jenna Pigg | Picture in the article: Anssi Kumpula

Tenants wish they could influence on their own environment more actively and get their voice heard. Only question how to do it, when students’ life is quite active already and then there is also a law that affects to the possibilities. How the voice of tenants could be heard the best way possible in student housing? Do students have enough interest and time in their own housing community, or are they looking for community elsewhere today?

Kortepohja Student Village didn’t get it’s tenants’ committee formed for the year 2021 – for the first time in the Student Village’s history. Low interest in tenant democracy has also been noticed nationwide during recent years, and actually the Kortepohja Student Village’s tenants’ committee has been one of the few active tenants’ committees in student housing.

In Finland, tenant democracy is governed by the Act on Collective Administration in Rental Houses, according to which in the Arava rental housing, the tenants’ meeting or the tenants’ committee is responsible for joint administration. However, the problem in recent years has been the lack of interest in both meetings and the tenants’ committee – which is why the law is going to be reformed soon.

Community without commitment

In 2020, the Finnish Student Housing Association commissioned a survey, the purpose of which was to find out tenants’ experiences of tenant democracy. More than 3,000 tenants of the student housing communities across Finland responded to the survey.

The survey shows that only 23% of respondents see participation in the tenants’ committee for a limited period as a meaningful way of participating. Based on the survey, a clear majority are interested in tenant activities and the community (61%) instead of tenant democracy and influencing (39%). Occasional participation (83%) attracts more than fixed-term commitment (17%).

Also Soihtu asked these questions in it’s own tenant survey, which was conducted during April. A total of 430 tenants responded to the survey. According to the results, more tenants are interested in community and events (29%) than in tenant democracy and influencing (15%) – there are also tenants who find both equally important. 44% of the tenants want to be involved in tenant activities on an occasional basis and only 8% of respondents were willing to participate in regular activities. The most meaningful ways to make an impact are electronic voting and tenant activities, such as organizing events. Tenants’ online discussion platform also attracted interest.

Opportunities for influencing are lost

On Monday, April 26, 2021, an open tenants’ meeting was held for the tenants of Kortepohja Student Village, the aim of which was to discuss about tenant activities, community and influencing in the living environment in the Student Village. A total of ten student village tenants were present and also the Student Union Board’s  vice chair Aku Buckbee and me as Soihtu’s community manager were participating the event. The discussion highlighted in particular the changes in the yard area in recent years and the fact that tenants feel that they have no means of influencing their own housing.

We also had good discussion on the difference between influencing and decision-making and how to involve more tenants in planning and decision-making. As with the survey, electronic ways of influencing were perceived as easy. Many felt that the community spirit and event organization are important, but resources were low for organizing joint events. More communication and information is needed from the landlord, and many saw the monthly Tenants’ Info newsletter as a very good source of information.

The village needs it’s own “village team”

It is clear, that tenant activity is undergoing a transformation. But what can w edo about it? Since the beginning of the year, I have developed a new model in which a team of tenants could organize events, influence on the environment and do common good for all tenants. In the past, the tenants’ committee has had a good amount of money available each year for the benefit of the tenants – these funds have been used to organize events, buy loan items and support the clubs of the Student Village.

Although the pandemic has denied us the opportunity to organize physical events and canceled the clubs, we still have the opportunity to organize, for example, online cooking evenings, webinars or joint nature trips and picnics in the nearby nature. With the great popularity of urban farming, we could arrange small-scale yard events to sow useful plants to please all the tenants and to build insect hotels in the Village. Actually, only the imagination is the limit.

And as long as corona is gone, all the doors are open – joint dinners under the sky, cultural evenings and movie nights in Lillukka, Sauna Circuit, Kortepohja Festival. And why not even bring to life some of the old events like Rentukka Rock or Olvi runs. How does it sound?

No one can do this alone, so now we need tenants to join us. If you are interested in community, innovating new events and want to influence your own living environment without a fixed-term commitment, join the “Village Team”. A group of tenants who want genuinely influence to the Village spirit. You might also find new friends this way!

Did you get interested?

Register as a volunteer or discuss about the topic in Kortepohja’s own Discord!

We will create a joint discussion group of volunteer tenants to plan events and other fun for the tenants of the Student Village.

No commitments, no unwanted tasks – the activity is completely voluntary and requires only genuine interest in your own housing community.⁠

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