Renovation took the family to a new residential area - How moving to a replacement apartment works at Heka
Renovation of your home building often means having to move either to a temporary replacement apartment or permanently to another Heka location. The Tzouvanis family, who previously lived in Maunula, ended up living in Konala because of a renovation.
“Wow, you can fit flowers and a hammock in here,” was the first thought of Sara Tzouvanis, who moved to Konala in the spring, when she saw her new home and the yard that came with it for the first time.
Tzouvanis and her husband, Fotis Tzouvanis, their 10-month-old baby Ioana and the family’s cat had been living at Koivikkotie 5 in Maunula for a little over a year when plans started being drawn up for an extensive renovation of the building. The family were offered an opportunity to move into a replacement apartment arranged by Heka for the duration of the renovation.
“We hadn’t yet laid down roots in Maunula, so we decided that we could even stay in the replacement apartment permanently. We requested an apartment of the same size as our previous one. Our new home is exactly the same as our previous home in terms of square metres, but the layout is slightly more functional, and having our own small yard means having more space,” Sara rejoices.
Konala was selected as the family’s new home district because the Tzouvanis family had requested a replacement apartment in the area of Heka western office. The choice of area could have been specified further, and had the family wished it, it would probably have been possible to find them a home in the Maunula area.
A home is found for everyone for the duration of renovations
Many other Heka tenants also end up moving into a replacement apartment in conjunction with renovations every year. Moving is necessary, because if the indoor spaces, piping and facades of the building are renovated at the same time, it would be almost impossible to live in the building during the renovation.
When it is time for renovation, Heka always informs its tenants no later than half a year before they may have to move to a replacement apartment. Usually, an information event is held for the tenants to give them an opportunity to ask questions and receive information about what is to come. They are also offered an opportunity to sign a new rental agreement valid until further notice.
“In practice, we inform the tenants about what is to come and terminate the rental agreements to the apartments that will undergo renovation. However, no one will be left without a home, as all tenants will be offered an opportunity to move to a replacement apartment. Tenants can also stay in their replacement apartment permanently if they do not wish to return to their old apartment for some reason,” says Housing Secretary Roosa Patjas from Heka western office.
Tenants can make requests to Heka regarding the replacement apartment.
“Unfortunately, we aren’t always able to fulfil all the requests, but there are a couple of principles we absolutely adhere to. If a tenant requires an accessible home due to their state of health, for example, we will find a new home for them in an apartment located on the first floor or a building with a lift. We also try to take the requests of families with children into account as much as possible,” Patjas says.
According to Patjas, requests and needs related to accessibility should always be brought up as early on in the process as possible.
“This ensures that there are no unpleasant surprises on the moving day,” Patjas says.
The move itself is made as easy as possible. Heka arranges the moving boxes, movers and transport. The only task left to the occupants is packing their possessions.
“You can’t leave any personal movables in the apartment, basement storage units or elsewhere on the property for the duration of the renovation,” Patjas points out.
Moving to a replacement apartment is made easy for the tenant
The moving process also ultimately went surprisingly smoothly for the Tzouvanis family, even though they had both a baby and Manteli the cat “help” with the packing.
“The only thing I was nervous about during the move was that, even though our home itself was confirmed a few months before the moving day, we did not get the keys until the day before moving. That didn’t give us much time to measure the walls or think about where we wanted to put our things in advance,” Sara recalls.
However, as they did know which residential area they would be moving to in advance, the Tzouvanis family familiarised themselves with Konala by driving around.
“We were previously under the impression that there were mainly car dealerships here. It was wonderful to notice that Konala also has small groves, lovely areas of detached houses and a shopping centre, which makes the services here better than in Maunula,” Sara says.
Almost everything was upgraded during the renovation
Some of the tenants of Koivikkotie 5 in Maunula will most likely return to their old homes after the renovation. This is very common – after all, for many of the tenants the location, completed in 1971, is their beloved home of several decades.
The renovation of Koivikkotie 5 will be carried out in two phases. This means that half of the apartments will be renovated in the first phase and the rest in the second phase. After this, work will continue at the location in the form of renovation and refurbishment of the shared facilities and yard areas, among other things.
“Koivikkotie 5 comprises four apartment buildings, each of which has five residential floors and a basement. The apartments range from one-room to three-room apartments, and many types of repairs have been carried out in the buildings over the years. Renovation was needed, which is typical for a location of this age,” says Technical Property Manager Kimmo Lilja from Heka western office.
In the renovation, practically everything will be upgraded.
“The load-bearing basic structures will remain. We will simultaneously improve energy efficiency and take the environmental perspective into account. For example, the ventilation will be made more energy-efficient, the roofs will be fitted with solar panels, and charging points will be built for electric cars. We will also try to make the shared facilities accessible,” Lilja lists.
The actual renovation is intended to be completed in 2023. According to Lilja, however, follow-up work and warranty repairs will take time, which is why the location will not be completed for sure until 2025.
“This is a big deal for the tenants, and the change in their life may be enormous. This is why the tenants had the opportunity to participate in the planning, and we have sought to take their views into account.”
A representative of the tenants has been involved in the renovation planning and worksite activities from the beginning.
“For example, there is an oak tree in the yard that we will try to protect. The routes between buildings will also be improved at the tenants’ request. The tenants have also been provided with a place to wash laundry during the renovation, even though the laundry room was left within the worksite of the first work phase,” Lilja says.
Flow of information is important when your home will be undergoing renovation
Thanks to the renovation, the apartments at Koivikkotie 5 will become brighter and more open. The aim is to favour light-coloured materials indoors.
“The idea in Heka renovations is that the tenants can add colour with elements such as curtains and furniture if they wish. However, interior decor always divides opinions. Some would like to see more colour and radical solutions,” Lilja says.
He points out that, despite differences in opinion, the renovation has kicked off in good spirit.
“I would like to thank the tenants for their great attitude and patience. Due to COVID-19, we weren’t able to hold as extensive information events as we would have liked, but fortunately it looks like information has found its way to the recipients well, and the relocations to replacement apartments have gone smoothly.”
Roosa Patjas also highlights the importance of communication.
“We can also be reached by phone if you need more information about moving to a replacement apartment or something seems unclear, for example,” she advises.
Sara Tzouvanis says that she has mainly been in contact with Patjas by e-mail.
“Communication was effortless, and we were easily able to keep track of which process phase was underway. In retrospect, when decorating this new home, I’ve felt that Heka was able to take the wishes of a family with children into account better than we could’ve hoped for. For example, there is a designated parking facility for prams right outside the door, which facilitates everyday life tremendously. I didn’t even know to wish for such a thing,” Sara laughs.
Renovation keeps the home building in good condition
In the next few years, Heka will spend roughly EUR 170 million a year on renovating apartments. This year, major renovation projects concerning almost a thousand apartments will be launched.
The renovation dates will be set with the help of long-term repair planning as well as condition assessments and surveys carried out on location. The developer is Helsinki Housing Production Department ATT, which is responsible for seeing the repair process through to completion.
If a need for repairs is noted during a needs assessment or condition assessment, the project will progress through a project plan and actual plans to contract tendering. The project’s planning meetings will be attended by a tenant representative chosen by the building committee. Tenants can get information on possible repair plans concerning their home building from the building committee.
As Heka needs a great number of replacement apartments and arranging them is a multi-phase process, only one potential replacement apartment can be designated for each tenant. If a tenant wants, they can arrange their own replacement apartment and still return to the renovated apartment.
Offering a replacement apartment for the duration of a renovation is a rare practice among rental housing operators.