Housing and communities 2019
Finland’s swift urbanisation and the change to its population structure will challenge society’s capacity for renewal

6.3.2020 15.23
Finland’s swift urbanisation and the change to its population structure will challenge society’s capacity for renewal

Changes to housing and to the structure and activities of communities are generally quite slow. In particular, the aging of the population, urbanisation and climate change are now causing pressures for change. Efforts have been made to prevent excessive inequality in communities by taking care of the safety, functionality and balanced demographic structure of residential areas. Adaptation has already begun for the changing climate and water conditions resulting from climate change.

Communities that adapt to changes proactively and flexibly and are safe and functional for their residents are a prerequisite for sustainable development. In such communities, jobs, housing, diverse services, sustainable transport systems and green and water areas support economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being.

A growing number of people over the age of 75 live at home, no comprehensive long-term comparative data available on the quality of care for older people

An effort has been made to promote the possibilities of older people to live at home, as living at home is a considerably cheaper option for society than institutional care. In most cases, people also want to live at home for as long as possible, if they feel that they have access to enough help in coping with everyday life if necessary. The indicator illustrates the share of all people aged 75 or over living at home and the share of those who are provided regular home care.

Finland’s current situation

People living at home account for 91.3% of all people aged 75 or over. 11.0% of those aged 75 or over receive regular home care. In 2018, the approximately 20,000 people or 35% of those who live at home and are provided home care services received a large number of services or more than 60 visits a month. Around 5 per cent of people aged 75 or over are cared for through informal care support.

Comparison to target levels

Agenda 2030’s SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for people at all ages. In 2013, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities issued a national quality recommendation which included setting a goal that 91‒92% of persons over the age of 75 would live at home in 2017. The national objective is now to continue to increase the number of persons over the age of 75 living at home. An effort is being made to promote living at home in newly constructed and renovated buildings by improving the accessibility of their living environments. The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA) grants renovation grants, the aim of which is to repair housing for older people and persons with disabilities, remove obstacles to accessibility and build lifts. The general objective is also to support living at home by developing the provision of home services, such as home care and catering services. These services are especially important for elderly people living alone.

Finland’s recent development

The share of persons over the age of 75 living at home has increased starting from 2012. Those in the specified age group are on average in better shape compared to previous generations. On the other hand, people who are older and in poorer health live at home whereas they could not have before. The need for services for older people in home care has increased in recent years. Customers are in increasingly poor condition and have several concurrent illnesses, which is why they require a great deal of help. The number of persons receiving a large number of home care services has more than doubled in the span of a decade. In the future, the ageing of the population will also pose more challenges to the housing of the elderly.

Other observations related to the indicator

Individual differences in the functional capacity of older people are very large, which makes the interpretation of the indicator challenging. For example, the indicator does not directly describe the share of elderly people who live in their homes unwillingly, as a place of care that is considered of sufficient quality or affordable is not available. The quality of care for the elderly has been highly criticised, but there is no comprehensive and long-term comparable data available. The time series on informal care is missing data from the following years: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. For these, the time series shows the average for the preceding and subsequent years.

Low-income households in rented residences spend a large amount of money on housing

Keeping housing costs reasonable is a key prerequisite for a good life. Housing costs are observed with an indicator displaying the share of households that spent over 40 per cent of their net revenue on living costs out of total households.

Finland’s current situation

In 2017, housing costs exceeded 40% of available income in around 180,000 households, or 6.6% of all households. High housing costs are particularly burdensome for those renting their homes, those with low incomes, those living alone, single parents and those living in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The tenth of households with the highest incomes spent less than 15% of their net income on housing, whereas the tenth of households with the lowest income spent more than 30% of their net income on housing.

Comparison to target levels

The goal of the Society's Commitment to Sustainable Development is to promote housing opportunities suitable for each person’s and family’s life situation. Housing must also be reasonably priced. The 2030 Agenda aims to ensure that everyone has adequate, safe and affordable housing by 2030 (Target 11.1). In the long term, unreasonably high housing costs will increase the regional urban fragmentation. The insufficient supply of housing in relation to its demand increases housing prices and rents, which means that households will apply for cheaper areas further away from the city centres. Among other issues, this increases the need for transport and travel and hinders the organisation of public transport and services in a sustainable manner. When daily commutes can be handled with vehicles other than passenger cars and car trips remain short, the environmental targets for transport will be easier to achieve. Short distances also enable affordable and health-enhancing muscle exercise.

Finland’s recent development

The share of households with high housing costs has decreased from 2014 and 2013, when the number of households was approximately 190,000, or more than 7 per cent of all households. In the 2000s, the share of households in rental residences with a low income and high housing costs was at its lowest in 2010. The share of households with high living costs in owner-occupied accommodation remained nearly unchanged, at around 2 per cent, regardless of the place of residence. Low interest rates were the main reason for this. The cost of housing is affected by many factors, such as the general economic situation, the functioning of the construction and housing markets, municipal planning and land policy, and the MAL agreements that coordinate land use, housing and transport between central government and growth centres. Correctly located and sufficient housing production will restrain the prices and rents of accommodation, which affect the housing costs incurred by households.

Other observations related to the indicator

Persons who live in households where the disposable cash income per unit of consumption (equivalent cash income) is less than 60% of the median available cash income of all households' equivalents are considered low income. Housing subsidies are not included in housing costs or available financial income. The repayments of loans for owner-occupied accommodation are not included in housing costs; instead, these are examined as a form of saving. When interpreting the indicator, it must be noted that the decrease or small sum of housing costs is not always indicative of a positive development. For example, living in a residence that is in poor condition may be cheap, and in areas that are losing their population, the decrease in housing costs may reflect a significant decrease in the value of even housing that is in good condition.

Population density has begun to rise in large urban areas

The efficient provision of well-functioning services in urban areas requires that the population density is sufficiently high. The organising of profitable public transport requires a population density of at least 20 residents per hectare. In areas where this population density is surpassed, the share of inhabitants serves as an indicator depicting development in the community structure and prerequisites for public transport.

Finland’s current situation

In 2017, 64.3% of residents in urban agglomerations lived in an area with a population density of at least 20 inhabitants per hectare. The share was highest in the Helsinki urban region (82.0%) as well as in other major and densely built urban regions. In 14 urban regions, more than half of the population in agglomerations lived in areas with a population density of at least 20 residents per hectare. In medium-sized and small urban areas, population density is highest in the centre of the area and its peripheral zones. In medium-sized urban areas, there are only a few areas with public transport, and even then the frequency at which the services are provided tend to be relatively low. Small urban areas have barely any public transport services. Based on the Envimat model, the carbon footprint of Finnish people living in city centres is about 40% lower than that of those living in rural areas close to cities.

Comparison to target levels

Agenda 2030 SDG 9 is to build resilient infrastructure. The sufficient density of the urban structure and the integrity of the regional structure are key objectives for the use of the regions. When daily commutes can be handled with vehicles other than passenger cars and car trips remain short, traffic emissions and the resulting health risks will remain as small as possible. When the density of urban structure is increased, the preservation of green areas and easy access to these must be ensured.

Finland’s recent development

With the development of urbanisation, population density has increased in recent years, especially in many large urban areas. Out of all residents in urban areas, the share of those living in areas with at least 20 residents per hectare decreased from 2000 to 2012. After this, their share has started growing slightly. This change is underlined by a growth in the share of construction of blocks of flats and an increase in supplementary construction in relation to expansion construction located at the fringes of urban areas. Differences between regions increase as new construction is solely focused on larger urban areas, which, in turn, have the best possibilities for affecting the development of community structures. Sufficient density and inhabitant base also guarantee sufficient demand for frequently operating public transport services, which increases the rate of using public transport as the mode of transport to a fairly high level. Particularly in medium-sized urban areas, ambitious supplementary construction can help in keeping public transport services in suburbs. New types of transport services may also introduce smaller scale public transport solutions to small and medium-sized urban areas. The increasing density of urban areas is supported by the ageing of the population, an increase in smaller households and a shift towards urban areas in people's wishes for housing. However, the city plans prepared in urban regions include a great deal of areas reserved for the construction of new, low-density and low-rise developments in the fringe areas of the region, which should they be built will would diversify the urban structure. On the other hand, the plans provide a reasonable amount of opportunities for urban single-family house supplementary construction, which can help especially families with children have access to housing at a reasonable distance from the city centre.

Other observations related to the indicator

In the indicator, population density is determined by 250 m x 250 m statistical boxes. The number of residents is aligned with the surface area of the statistical box. Only boxes that are defined as urban areas the year in question are included in the review.

Accessibility to convenience shops has also declined in urban areas

Products provided by grocery stores are essential for most households. The location of a grocery store has a major impact on how smooth the everyday lives of households are, as, on average, people tend to go to grocery stores more than three times a week. This indicator describes the share of inhabitants in a densely populated urban area living within at most 500 metres as the crow flies from the nearest convenience shop.

Finland’s current situation

56.7% of residents in Finland's 34 largest urban areas live no more than 500 metres as the crow flies from the closest grocery store. This share is highest in Helsinki’s urban area (65.8%) and lowest in the Raahe urban region (34.5%). In total, more than half of the inhabitants in 12 urban regions live within 500 metres of their local grocery store. The accessibility of shops in urban areas in linked to the urban area’s population density. In densely populated communities, the accessibility of services is better than in sparsely populated communities.

Comparison to target levels

There is no absolute target that is based on policy or research for the accessibility of grocery trade. The availability of services is particularly important for households with no car or older residents. Easily accessible services improve the opportunities for older people to live independently in their own homes. Finland's sparse population and long distances often make the use of a car necessary, especially when transporting purchases to rural areas. In the near future, e-commerce and the emergence of new types of transport services may reduce the significance of the location of shops for the consumer.

Finland’s recent development

In recent years, the accessibility of the grocery trade has deteriorated due to its concentration and the decline in the retail network. The liberalisation of business opening hours since the beginning of 2016 has increased trade in large shops and led to the closure of numerous small shops. The accessibility of grocery trade in all of Finland’s urban areas improved slightly from 2000 to 2016 but has since declined. Accessibility has been supported by urbanisation, as a result of which an increasing number of people live in densely populated urban areas where a shop is usually a short distance away. Efforts have also been made to attract trade to city centres and the centres of residential areas. Accessibility has deteriorated especially in many small urban and rural areas.

Other observations related to the indicator

In the indicator, dense urban areas correspond to the area with a local detailed plan in terms of construction efficiency. The interpretation of the indicator is hampered by the fact that easy shopping opportunities together with advertising can also encourage environmentally loading consumption that is questionable from the perspective of sustainable development.

Around 6,000 Finns live in areas with a significant risk of flooding

Climate change is one of the key future challenges that we need to prepare for now in the development of communities and housing. Preparedness for climate change is described by the number of people living in flood risk areas.

Finland’s current situation

In Finland, there are around 100 areas where a rise in the surface of inland waters or sea water may cause flood damage to people, buildings or communities. Of these, 22 areas have been recognised as potential significant flood risk areas. Around 6,000 people live in these areas. The number of residents in these areas has increased slightly in some places. This is mainly due to changes in the boundaries of the regions and to the supplementation of knowledge base. With the completion of flood protection, the number of residents has decreased slightly in some areas (e.g. Vartiokylä Bay in Helsinki). These days, the risk of flooding is taken into account fairly well in construction.

Comparison to target levels

Agenda 2030’s SDG 11 is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Another objective related to poverty is to develop, in particular, the adaptability of the deprived and to reduce their vulnerability to climate-related extreme phenomena (Target 1.5). Finland’s national objective is to reduce the number of residents in flood risk areas or to at the least maintain it at its current level. In addition to the slow rate of change in the building stock, the problem may be that flood risk areas are desirable living places due to their location or for other reasons. New residential buildings should not be built in flood risk areas, at least without ensuring that they have proper flood protection. In addition to construction solutions, the aim is to improve flood risk management, for example, by increasing residents' awareness of floods and the operating practices in flood situations. The objectives of flood protection must take into account weather phenomena that are likely to become more extreme as a result of climate change. Along with floods caused by bodies of water and sea water, increasing attention must be paid to heavy rain and the storm water floods caused by these in densely constructed areas.

Finland’s recent development

There have been no major changes in the number of people living in flood risk areas. The low figure for 2013 is mainly due to the fact that not all major areas had accurate flood maps available at that time. Flood risk management and preparedness for floods have been developed, for example, by steering new construction outside of flood hazard areas, improving the retention of flood waters in catchment areas and increasing the effectiveness of flood warnings. In cities, storm water floods caused by heavy rains can be prevented by increasing the number of green spaces and water areas and other surfaces that delay water flow between urban structures. In agriculture and forestry, taking care of plant cover and utilising wetlands and mires as equalizers for water flows help in managing floods. Flood risks and their management are monitored as part of Finland’s national adaptation to climate change. Preparation for floods and other weather and climate-related risks is anticipation that aims to reduce and prevent the risks to people's health and safety and to infrastructure.

Other observations related to the indicator

The indicator describes a significant flood risk the statistical recurrence of which is once every 100 years (unless the significance is caused by a flood type other than flood in open water, e.g. flooding caused by ice). The indicator takes into account the inhabitants living in areas of potential flood hazards whose accommodation has not been permanently protected against a flood.

Changes implemented to indicators

  1. The indicator has been updated and a time series on home care for older people has been added to describe the help available for living at home.
  2. The indicator has been updated and the analysis describing the place of residence has been replaced by an analysis describing income level as information on this is more easily available and, in particular, to emphasise the status of those who have a low income and live in rented housing.
  3. The indicator has been updated and several time series have been added alongside the average for urban regions to reflect differences between large and small urban regions.
  4. The indicator has been updated with the most recent available data.
  5. The indicator has been updated with the most recent available data.