Minister of Housing believes in merger of Helsinki and Vantaa
Minister of Housing Jan Vapaavuori (National Coalition Party) regards it as regrettable that there have not been any municipal mergers in the Greater Helsinki area, as local communities doggedly cling to their boundaries.
In Vapaavuori’s view, the most sensible idea would be to merge all municipalities in the Greater Helsinki area with the capital city.
However, in an interview with the women’s weekly Me Naiset he admitted that such a project is being adamantly opposed by the residents of Espoo and Kauniainen, while a more favourable opinion has been expressed in Vantaa.
Tapani Mäkinen (National Coalition Party), the chairman of the Vantaa City Council, proposed a discussion on potential boundary changes in the summer.
”If we cannot find the best solution, we will have to choose the second best. Unless we can achieve a better solution, it is worthwhile to go ahead that way. It could be possible to join Vantaa to Helsinki already in the near future”, Vapaavuori says, advising Vantaa residents to initiate a debate on the issue.
No good examples exist of any cooperation between the municipalities in the Greater Helsinki area, according to Vapaavuori.
”Unless the cooperation between these municipalities starts to yield some results, compulsory annexations will be taken on the political agenda”, Vapaavuori reports.
The present municipal boundaries tend to obstruct the attempts to reduce the current housing shortage, according to the minister.
The boundaries force the municipalities to compete for tax-payers instead of urging them to discuss zoning from the entire region’s point of view.
Mari Kiviniemi (Centre Party), the Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, moved in speedily to reject such compulsory annexations.
”According to the programme of the present government, all municipal annexations have to be voluntary”, Kiviniemi reports.
Nevertheless, Kiviniemi says that in principle she is in favour of a potential merger of the metropolitan area municipalities.
”It would ease the organisation of services and commuting, as well as the coordination of housing and community politics”, the minister argues.
In Kiviniemi’s view, a detailed report on the pros and cons of such a merger should be made in the course of the upcoming council period. At the same time, the residents of the municipalities should be polled on their views as to the potential annexation.
At a debate in Helsinki on Thursday relating to the upcoming municipal elections in October, hosted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, Jyrki Katainen, the head of the National Coalition Party, also noted that it would be sensible to incorporate the surrounding municipalities of Vantaa, Espoo, and Kauniainen into the capital city. However, he added that such an annexation should be voluntary.
Only two party chairs were openly in favour of a compulsory merger of the metropolitan area cities, namely Tarja Cronberg (Green League) and Martti Korhonen (Left Alliance).
The discussion came down fairly strongly against the plans put forward by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) for a "garden city" arrangement of communities around the metropoltian nucleus and dependent on buses and private cars for transport.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Helsinki looks further east beyond Sipoo (16.1.2008)
In the annexing department, Helsinki has a history of getting its way (5.9.2006)
PM Vanhanen´s idea of garden village metropolis in Helsinki region gets a battering (11.9.2008)