Divided by Policy: Urban Inequality in Finland

Forskningsoutput: AvhandlingDoktorsavhandlingSamling av artiklar


This is a study concerning land and housing policies and urban inequality in Finland. Land policy refers to the management of state and municipal land. Housing policy refers to public involvement in the supply and demand of housing. Urban inequality refers to the unwanted spatial differentiation of people in the city due to the unequal chances of individuals to choose where they live. An often-overlooked feature of urban inequality is the stigmatization of particular areas and neighborhoods of the city, and their symbolic differentiation from the rest of the city. Previous research on spatial differentiation in Finland has focused primarily on mapping the spatial differentiation of people. Although empirically rich, previous research has left explanations for urban inequality wanting. This dissertation addresses this research gap and contributes to our understanding of urban inequality from the policy perspective. It also reflects critically on the problems caused by the very lack of explanation in previous research.

This dissertation consists of four original research articles. The main body of data used in the articles are interviews with representatives of urban authorities making decisions and recommendations on land and housing policies. The first article explores the means and objectives of land policy adopted in three Finnish cities at the time when new land use legislation was introduced and municipalities and the state introduced a new type of real estate policy. The second article is a study of that new land and real estate policy, which it calls the “entrepreneurial public real estate policy”, in Helsinki. Article three dives into the history of Finland’s housing policy. It presents critical discussion about the adopting of the dubious policy term “special groups” and investigates why social rental housing is increasingly targeted at those labeled “special”. The fourth article is a critical examination of the theories and concepts used in Finnish segregation research.

Based on the findings of these research articles, the main argument of this dissertation is the following: state and municipal land and housing policies provide conditions for the spatial and symbolic division of the urban population. The land policy implemented in Finnish cities has increasingly prioritized competitiveness and attracting investments and businesses. This has left other goals of land policy, such as the prevention of urban inequality, secondary. Entrepreneurial public real estate policy is responsible for alienating municipal land and providing the conditions for spatial divisions, such as the development of the first exclusive, fenced residential area for the wealthy in Helsinki. In Finland’s housing policy, social housing is increasingly viewed and treated as a social service for the market-incapable, those deemed by policy language to be members of “special groups”. The dissertation calls this the “specialization” of social housing. The specialization of social housing and the derogatory category of “special groups” used in policy jargon provide conditions for symbolic divisions between social housing tenants and others. Land and housing policies that could and should work to prevent urban inequalities actually exacerbate those inequalities and provide the conditions for deepening urban divides. This dissertation investigates why these policies are so toothless.
Tilldelande institution
  • Helsingfors universitet
  • Haila, Anne, Handledare
Tilldelningsdatum23 mar 2019
Tryckta ISBN978-951-51-3375-5
Elektroniska ISBN978-951-51-3376-2
StatusPublicerad - 23 mar 2019
MoE-publikationstypG5 Doktorsavhandling (artikel)


  • 5142 Social- och samhällspolitik

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