Land use and building
Finland is a sparsely populated country, where landscapes are largely dominated by natural forests and lakes. Settlements are generally concentrated in coastal regions and alongside important lakes and waterways.
Viikki residential district, Helsinki. Photo: Harri Hakaste
Built-up areas cover less than three per cent of Finland, but they are home to more than 80% of the population. Most urban areas are relatively small, with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. Only ten cities have more than 50,000 residents, and even the largest cities are not densely built up by international standards.
Population growth has been concentrated in recent years in larger cities, and particularly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Many smaller settlements and rural areas are suffering from depopulation, due to migration to these growth centers.
About 30,000 new homes have been built every year in recent years. Some 54% of these homes have been small single-family homes.
The role of the environmental administration
Finland’s Environmental Administration develops and controls land use planning and construction throughout Finland.
Finland’s Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment additionally control municipal planning and construction within their respective regions. The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) conducts research and monitoring related to the built environment.
The aims of the Land Use and Building Act
In Finland land use, spatial planning and construction are controlled by the Land Use and Building Act, which came into force in 2000.
The Land Use and Building Act aims:
- to organise land use and building to create the basis for high quality living environments,
- to promote sustainable development,
- to ensure open planning and participatory processes,
- to ensure that a wide range of planning expertise is available.