Elina Eskelä, Planner, City Executive Office, City of Helsinki

As a planner at the City Executive Office, Elina coordinates and develops housing policy in Helsinki, ensuring mixed tenure development in the neighbourhoods. As Helsinki strives to hold its position as a textbook example in Europe of how to prevent segregation, Elina is also planning suburban renewal projects, enabling equality and wellbeing in all districts. She also works with projects aiming at innovative housing solutions and diversifying housing in apartment buildings.

Elina holds a PhD in Urban Geography from University of Helsinki. Her research has focused on housing preferences of skilled migrants and social aspects of housing. Elina was Chair of the Finnish Society of Urban Planning (2017-19).

Crisis in the city: Helsinki

As Helsinki strives to hold its position as a textbook example in Europe of how to prevent segregation, current housing policy ensures socio-economic diversity in the neighbourhoods: the new housing stock consists of 25% social housing, 30% intermediate tenures (right-of-occupancy and quality-and-price-controlled owner-occupied), and 45% unregulated housing. This “Helsinki Mix” is realised on all land within the city limits. Therefore, new coastal residential areas, such as Jätkäsaari and Kalasatama, have diverse housing options for people with different income levels. In existing suburban areas, infill construction is planned after analysing the current structure of the housing stock, aiming for this diverse mix of tenures as well.

The City of Helsinki is a significant provider of housing: one in seven residents lives in city-owned social housing. Helsinki owns 60,000 housing units, of which 49,000 are state subsidised social rental dwellings. The City chooses residents for its social housing units, prioritising those in urgent need for housing and with low income, but simultaneously ensuring a balanced socio-economic structure of the residents in apartment blocks and neighbourhoods. There is no maximum income ceiling for the social housing tenants. The City also runs its own construction company for building social and affordable housing.

The long-span housing policy enabling equality and wellbeing in all districts is one of the reasons why Helsinki is at the top of global quality of life rankings.