Semantic image synthesis aims to generate photo realistic images given a semantic segmentation map. Despite much recent progress, training them still requires large datasets of images annotated with per-pixel label maps that are extremely tedious to obtain. To alleviate the high annotation cost, we propose a transfer method that leverages a model trained on a large source dataset to improve the learning ability on small target datasets via estimated pairwise relations between source and target classes. The class affinity matrix is introduced as a first layer to the source model to make it compatible with the target label maps, and the source model is then further fine-tuned for the target domain. To estimate the class affinities we consider different approaches to leverage prior knowledge: semantic segmentation on the source domain, textual label embeddings, and self-supervised vision features. We apply our approach to GAN-based and diffusion-based architectures for semantic synthesis. Our experiments show that the different ways to estimate class affinity can effectively combined, and that our approach significantly improves over existing state-of-the-art transfer approaches for generative image models.