Viewpoint on Housing: Tenant Activity in Transition

Story: Mari Lähteenmäki | Article photo: Mari Mansikkamäki

In the early days of Kortepohja Student Village it was assumed, as was typical to the 60’s and 70’s, that everyone wanted to participate in developing their living environment. Different models of tenant democracy were tried. From 1974, 20 tenants were voted for tenants’ council, which remained the highest decision-making member in the Student Village for decades.

Not all tenants found the administrational decision-making work meaningful, and a more relaxed way to participate was called for. The Recreational Subcommittee of Kortepohja, as it was called, offered an alternative to the Tenants’ Council. It never got political, unlike other JYY committees.

Building the community was rewarding

One of the builders of tenant community in Kortepohja is Heli Hämäläinen, who lived in the Student Village in 2007-2015 taking part in both tenant democracy and recreational activities.

When asked why she was ready to invest her time in the tenants’ activity, the response is clear. “It was less about being a member in the Tenants’ Council, which was largely a continuum of the Student Union politics. Rather than that, it was about organizing free-time activities, for which lots of resources were available, and any crazy idea could be carried out.”

Heli Hämäläinen describes the Recreational Subcommittee as a low-key way to spend time. “The meetings were open to all Student Village tenants. I got to meet lots of people I would not have met otherwise.” Along with small gatherings, large events were organized. Festival-like Rentukka Rock, Rentukka Folk and Kortepolympics were attracting audience from the entire student community. “Nothing was too kooky in the Kortepohja context.”

Changing times call for changes in the procedures

By mid-2010’s the number of voters in Village elections sank. The tasks of the two committees were grouped together under the Tenant’s committee, elected in the general meeting of the Student Village tenants. By 2020, the Committee’s focus shifted from events and gatherings to supervision and administration. Also, criticism towards Soihtu’s procedures was voiced.

The Community manager Jenna Pigg has been following closely the developments around Soihtu tenants’ activity. “I get the frustration – the tenants’ got to have a say in their living environment. For participation, workshops and polls have been organized regularly, along with the tenants’ meeting and tenants’ committee. Maybe the existing ways to participate are not recognized or seen up-to-date.”

In 2021, a poll has been carried out among Soihtu’s tenants to find out what kind of tenant activities they wish to have and what would be a good way to participate. The future will bring yet another transition in the Soihtu’s tenants’ possibilities, opening new chances to create something grand for the community.

The Soihtu tenants are offered yet another venue for participating, when an unofficial Tenants’ meeting takes place on Wednesday 5.5. at 5 pm. The invitation for the unofficial Tenants’ Meeting is published on the Soihtu webpage.

The text has been published originally in the Kylä magazine 1 / 2021.

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