Migration of the disadvantaged flows from cities to depopulated communities
The deprived move anywhere they can get a roof over their head
Internal migration of the underprivileged from cities to the out-of-the-way municipalities that otherwise suffer from depopulation makes life that much harder in these communities.
It is a hitherto largely uncharted phenomenon, in which communities that keep losing residents of the best working age to bigger cities receive disadvantaged people instead, who strain further municipal economies with their multiple social and health-care needs.
This reverse migration automatically steers towards communities where cheap rental housing is available. This is a familiar occurrence everywhere outside the capital area.
"We have scattered information on the subject. In rural municipalities, there are businessmen who buy residences and let them out under the going market price", notes senior inspector Juha Saikkonen from the Ministry of the Environment.
Planning chief Olavi Lehtinen of the Housing Fund of Finland also knows about the problem. He confirms that there have been discussions on the municipal level over whether it is a good idea to try to reverse the rural depopulation by any means to hand.
"Still, no large-scale studies have been carried out on the subject", Lehtinen points out.
According to Heino Hiltunen, the former planning chief of the Joint Authority of Kainuu Region, there were nearly 80,000 people queuing up for municipal supported housing in November. Simultaneously, there were 3,000 - 4,000 empty rental apartments in depopulated rural communities.
"The problem is on a larger scale than has been reported thus far", Hiltunen confirms.
A quick interview with municipal leaders in different areas of Finland confirms that decision-makers are hesitant to allow just anyone move into their communities.
Even communities that suffer from depopulation try to screen the applicants to avoid problem residents.
Some entrepreneurs have tapped into this, trying to offer housing even for the most marginalised people. Old school buildings, for example, shut down after the flight from the land left too few children to maintain them, have been converted into apartment blocks. In many cases, they provide a place of last resort for "difficult" cases that municipalities are reluctant to take into supported communal apartments.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Espoo and Pirkkala take cream of internal migration in Finland (18.8.2005)
Housing Fund of Finland