Housing in Finland is generally new or recent, and of good quality, with all modern conveniences. Home ownership rates are high. Both housing projects and individual homes tend to be small-scale by international standards.
Finland has an adequate number of homes overall: at the end of 2003 there were about 500 housing units per 1,000 inhabitants. Housing markets are clearly differentiated in different parts of the country, however.
Helsinki, and to a lesser extent certain other growth centres, are suffering from housing shortages, high housing prices and high rents, while in most municipalities the housing market is balanced, or there may even be an oversupply.
Small-scale housing dominant
The most common residential buildings are blocks of flats (accounting for 44 % of all homes in 2003) and detached houses (40 %). Terraced “row houses” have become more popular in recent years, particularly in urban areas.
Blocks of flats are normally limited in size, and tend to be well spaced in green surroundings, providing a pleasant residential environment.
Good quality housing
Finland’s housing stock is very new overall, with 60 % of all dwellings built since 1970. Practically every home has piped water, and 96 % of homes have hot water on tap. Most homes are connected to local sewerage systems, and 96 % have flush toilets.
Some 93 % of all homes are equipped with central heating systems. Buildings are insulated so well that annual energy consumption per cubic metre for heating is of the same order as in countries considerably further south. District heating schemes are widespread, and produce almost half of all the heating energy used in buildings in Finland.
Small homes and small households
Although there have been dramatic decreases in occupancy densities, there is still less housing space per inhabitant in Finland than in most EU countries: in 2003 there were 1.7 rooms and 36 square metres of housing per person on average. This is mostly due to the high proportions of smaller housing units in the housing stock: around 44 %of all homes had just one or two rooms, and 42 % had 3-4 rooms (excl. kitchen).
Finnish households also tend to be relatively small: at the end of 2004, the average size of households was 2.14 persons and over 72 % of all households consisted of only one or two persons.The number or small households had increased by more than a third since 1990. This trend has led to a high demand for small homes, especially in the rental sector.
Two-thirds in owner-occupancy
Two-thirds of Finland’s housing stock consists of owner-occupied homes, and home ownership is widespread in all forms of housing, including apartments as well as detached houses and row houses. Housing companies are a very typical form of housing management in Finland, accounting for approximately half of all owner-occupied housing. Most housing companies are small, and manage a limited number of properties. Residents own shares of the housing company, have representation on the board, and pay a monthly fee towards maintenance costs.
About 32% of the housing stock was rented in 2002. Half of the rental housing in Finland consists of “social housing”, meaning that it is subsidised by the State or provided by the local authority, while the other half is market-financed.
New forms of ownership and tenure have recently been established between owner-occupied and rental housing. These include, for example, right-of-occupancy housing and different forms of partial ownership.
Low variation in housing expenditure shares
On average, people in Finland spend under 17 % of their disposable income on housing. Young people and single-parent households spend the largest share, 25-27 % on the average. In general, tenants spend a higher proportion of their income on housing than home-owners. Housing allowance schemes help to ensure that most households’ housing costs are kept down to reasonable levels.