Housing policy and the ethnic mix in Helsinki, Finland: perceptions of city officials and Somali immigrants

Dhalmann, Hanna; Vilkama, Katja
December 2009
Journal of Housing & the Built Environment;Dec2009, Vol. 24 Issue 4, p423
Academic Journal
Helsinki provides an interesting case for the comparison of European mixing policies, as it has a relatively short history as a city of immigration. In contrast to prevailing desegregation policies of many other European countries, mixing policies in Helsinki are more of a preventive nature. In this article, we aim to examine how these policies are constructed and what kinds of reasons and explanations are given for the official policy goals and their implementation. Interviews with Somali immigrants are used as empirical evidence to confront policy assumptions and to get more insight into the factors causing ethnic residential segregation in Helsinki. The study shows that the local policies have been largely influenced by international debates on ethnic segregation, and therefore they have lacked an adequate understanding of the causes and effects of segregation in the local context. While the policy goals of ethnic mixing have been rather precise, tools for implementation have also been lacking. The case of Somalis illustrates that processes of residential segregation are more complex and dynamic than what is pictured in policy documents.


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