Since the mid 1980’s tackling homelessness has almost continuously been a focus of Government programs in Finland. During recent years Finland has been the only country in the European Union with decreasing numbers on homelessness.
The Finnish Housing First approach was introduced in 2007 as a housing solution for the most vulnerable homeless people. Permanent housing based on a normal lease and individually tailored support services were the core elements in the approach. Increasing the supply of affordable rental housing was necessary. Also, preventive measures were reinforced. Since then, hostels have been converted into supported housing units with independent flats for the tenants and several social housing organisations have provided housing for the programme. New ways to support people and to improve integration in the neighbourhood have been developed.
Homeless policies have been based on Housing First approach since 2008. The government’s PAAVO programmes (2008-2015) targeted long-term homeless people. The following national policy programme AUNE (2016-2019) focused on prevention of homelessness. The target of the present Government programme (2020-) is to halve the number of homeless people in following four years and to end homelessness in the next four. The Government Programme states:
“We will halve homelessness during the government term and eradicate homelessness within two government terms, in other words, by 2027. We will continue to operate according to the ‘Housing First’ principle, which has proved to be effective. (https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/marin/government-programme/housing-policy)
Comparable data on homelessness has been available since 1987 when there were almost 19 000 homeless people in the country. Since then the number of homeless people has decreased thanks to determined action plans. Also, long-term homelessness has decreased significantly since the PAAVO programmes were introduced by the Finnish government, which made the Housing First approach the default for addressing homelessness in Finland. There are almost no rough sleepers in Finland now.
Current data for homeless people – by which we mainly mean people living with family or friends, indicate that in 2019, the number of single people in these circumstances was 4 600 and the number of families, 264. As the numbers show, we have achieved important reductions in homelessness, but we feel there is still important work to do.
Y-Foundation is Finland’s fourth largest landlord and one of the key national developers of the Housing First principle. The foundation is the establisher of the Housing First Europe HUB together with FEANTSA.
Y-Foundation is a non-profit social housing provider. The foundation has over 17 300 apartments and it operates in over 50 cities and municipalities in Finland. Most of the apartments are rent to partners, organisations and municipalities. They then rent the apartments via secondary leasing out to those who are most in need of housing. Homes are offered primarily to those with a homeless background, to those who have lost their credit rating, or to those who have otherwise become displaced from the rental housing market.
M2-Kodit, owned by the Y-Foundation, rents out apartments directly to those who are looking for a home and meet the tenant selection criteria. M2-Kodit offers affordable rental homes in Finnish cities and towns. The tenant selection is based on social relevance and financial need. These are evaluated based on the applicant household’s need for a flat and their assets.
Housing First Development Network in Finland
The Y-Foundation has been closely involved in the national programme to end homelessness. In addition to its rental activity, the foundation manages several development projects and operations for ending homelessness. The foundation coordinates Housing First Development Network, which is a Finnish network of organisations in housing-related social work.
The network develops practices, based on the Housing First principle, for preventing homelessness in an extensive network of partners. The development work is performed by arranging training, seminars and shared development and learning forums concerning housing-related social work.
The Housing First Development Network is a close network of partners, including cities and member organizations involved in homelessness prevention work.
PAAVO, The Finnish National Programme to reduce long-term homelessness:
Key resources for Finland
Ted Talk – Juha Kaakinen – Housing First in FinlandRead more | Go
The Governance of Inclusive Growth – An Overview of Country InitiativesRead more | Download
How Finland fixed homelessnessRead more
Lessons from Finland: helping homeless people starts with giving them homesRead more
National network information
Networking for Development
Networking for Development project (2016-2019) based in Y-Foundation is an open development platform for Housing First in Finland.
The network was originally established by five non-governmental organizations working with homeless people: Y-Foundation, Helsinki Deaconess Institute, The Finnish Blue Ribbon, VVA ry (No Fixed Abode NGO) and Street Mission in Rauma region. The project is financed by STEA, the Funding Centre for Social Welfare and Health Organisations.
Today the network is part of the National Action Plan for Preventing Homelessness in Finland. Training, pilot projects and other activities bring together practitioners and leaders from cities, NGOs and other organisations.
Housing First information in Finnish is available in: www.asuntoensin.fi