The City of Helsinki adopted a long-term policy called “Home Town Helsinki” in 2016, to promote and deliver a well-balanced mix of housing to meet the different needs and life situations. A key goal was the creation of mixed tenured neighbourhoods across the city. It also established targets for realising rented and ownership housing production in both the regulated and unregulated markets. Of 6,000 dwellings produced per year, 25 per cent are subsidized and regulated rental housing and 30 per cent are unsubsidized but with regulated ownership, which is price and quality controlled. The high level of public land ownership and conditional land leases make Helsinki’s ambitious affordable and inclusive housing goals feasible.
Helsinki owns 70 per cent of its land area and is therefore able to play a major role in providing and promoting affordable housing. It has accumulated a portfolio of 60,000 housing units, of which 48,500 are subsidized by the government for rental housing. Most new housing is also built on city property. Each year the city produces 1,500 dwellings directly, of which 750 units are subsidized rental housing.
Housing sold on city-owned land uses the so-called “company share” model, which applies to both owner-occupied and subsidized owner-occupied flats. When buying and selling homes, it is the company share that is traded, not the title to the land and housing. The process of exchange is managed by the city.
Helsinki has adopted a specific approach to ensure that middle-income families can also afford to live in all neighbourhoods of the city, even in the most expensive ones. Known as the “Hitas” system, it aims to reduce costs when housing is developed on publicly owned land. The price of units is regulated according to their real production costs and maximum prices are set and regulated by the city. Demand is high for these units and allocation is by a lottery. Owners pay a lower monthly cost, but they must also pay a fee to rent the land. The scheme works well in areas where the market costs are higher than production costs. For builders of housing in Helsinki, Hitas units are the only form of housing possible to develop on public lands. Their profits are lower, but sales are guaranteed due to high demand.
For more information see “Processing of Hitas and Semi-Hitas Projects”, June 2016 (https://www.hel.fi/static/kv/asunto-osasto/hitas-plans-en.pdf).https://www.hel.fi/helsinki/en/housing/housing/home-town