In the limelight

Helsinki region’s ambitious goals for MAL agreement period 2016–2019 achieved

Vilja Tähtinen
Regional Information Specialist
Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY

The Helsinki region’s MAL agreement for 2016–2019 was ambitious, but its objectives at the level of the entire Helsinki region were achieved. The targets written into the agreement in terms of housing production were surpassed and even in terms of land use planning, the region fell only slightly short of the targets. The transport measures have also been realised, to a large degree. The objective of the MAL agreement was the “coordination of the community structure and transport system in such a way as to lay the groundwork for a significant increase of plot supply and housing production”. The agreement also aimed to increase the parties’ commitment to the common goals and to (thereby) steer land use, housing production and the transport system towards the consolidation of the community structure and sustainable mobility. This article briefly assesses the fulfilment of the agreement’s three subject matters 1) responding to the need for housing production, 2) the coordination of land use, housing and transport, and 3) transport services and transport infrastructure measures with an emphasis on the perspective of municipalities.

Responding to the need for housing production

Housing production at a record-high level
The construction of 60,000 housing units in the municipalities of the Helsinki region during the agreement period was one of the agreement’s most clearly measurable targets. The target was achieved and a total of 64,082 housing units were completed in the region in 2016–2019. While production during the first years of the agreement lagged slightly behind the targets, records were broken during the final years in the entire region’s and municipality-specific housing production volumes. Nearly 20,000 units were completed in the Helsinki region in 2019 (Figure 1). The achievement percentage of the overall target of housing production in the region was 107. The municipalities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, excluding Helsinki, surpassed their targets by a clear margin. While variation in the KUUMA municipalities was higher, all in all, the KUUMA region fell only slightly short of the target (Table 1).

Figure 1. Housing units completed in the Helsinki region in 2012–2019

Table 1. Housing units completed in 2016–2019 

One of the agreement’s targets was that state-subsidised housing production in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and the KUUMA region would account for 30% and 20%, respectively, of the production. This target was not achieved and the entire region’s achievement in the volume of subsidised housing units was 87%. The target was not met particularly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, whereas many municipalities within the KUUMA region surpassed the target volumes.

Of the housing production, 87% was carried out in the primary target areas defined in the agreement. On the other hand, 70% of the entire period’s housing production was carried out in areas accessible by sustainable modes of transport (the SAVU accessibility zones I–III). In both indicators, the percentages increased as the agreement period progressed, meaning that the agreement’s aim of pursuing a more consolidated community structure and sustainable mobility was largely achieved. Rural construction, i.e. housing production located outside the area of the detailed plan, accounted only for 1% of the total production. 

Land use planning of residential plots active
The agreement’s target was that municipalities complete 6.132 million m2 (GFA) of the detailed plans of residential plots during the agreement period. In the entire region, 5.77 million m2 (GFA) of residential plans were approved (achievement percentage 94) and 5.82 million m2 (GFA) of them took effect (achievement percentage 95) (Figure 2). The planning target was achieved variably in the municipalities. While the target was reached in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, the target was not reached in the KUUMA region (Table 2).

Figure 2. Detailed plans for housing that were approved and took effect in 2012–2019

 

Table 2. Helsinki region’s new housing GFA by phase of detailed plan in 2016–2019

In the MAL agreement, the assessment of the planning target’s achievement also accounts for the adequacy of municipalities’ stock of residential plots. The stock of detailed plans for housing in the region remained at more than 10 million m2 (GFA) throughout the agreement period and increased slightly throughout the period. The emphasis in both planning and planning stocks during the agreement period shifted towards plots for blocks of flats.

In the planning for housing, 89% of the planning concerned the primary target areas defined in the agreement, while 72% of the entire period’s housing plans concerned areas accessible by sustainable modes of transport (the SAVU accessibility zones I–III) (Figure 3). As was the case in housing production, the percentages in both indicators increased as the agreement period progressed, meaning that the agreement’s aim of pursuing a more consolidated community structure and sustainable mobility was largely achieved.

Figure 3. Approved detailed plans for housing in the Helsinki region in 2016–2019: 5.8 million m2 (GFA)

Coordination of land use, housing, and transport

The MAL agreement aimed to deepen the cooperation of municipalities and continue the joint planning of land use, housing, and transport on the basis of the previous agreement period. The key output – the regional MAL 2019 plan – was completed during the agreement period and was approved in the municipalities, by the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority HSL and the municipalities’ cooperative bodies during the spring of 2019.

The future pursued by the Helsinki region was outlined in the MAL 2019 plan. It outlines the key measures and the concrete means by which those targets are jointly implemented. The MAL 2019 plan’s target year is 2030. 

MAL 2019 is a plan on how to reduce the region’s traffic emissions, make residents’ everyday lives smooth, on how people can find homes with good transport connections at affordable prices, and on how the accessibility of labour force and the functionality of transport serve the business sector. The plan outlines where housing units will be built in the future and how transport and the entire transport system will be developed in such a way that they best serve the entire Helsinki region. In addition, the plan discusses how to build enough housing units in the region for people in different stages of life while ensuring the quality of both the housing and the living environment. The plan’s guiding thought is to prepare for a strong growth of population and workplaces in which people’s everyday life does not follow municipal borders.

Transport services and infrastructure

The responsibility for the objectives and measures of the MAL agreement’s transport section were mostly divided among the contracting parties jointly. The target at the general level was to increase the service level of sustainable modes of transport, in which major changes indeed have taken place during the agreement period. Passenger numbers and ticket revenues have increased. The number of passengers has increased by more than 8% during the period, exceeding the region’s population growth by a clear margin.

The region has also seen the implementation of large-scale investments and changes. The West Metro and its feeder bus network became operational in 2017–2018. The Ring Rail Line and the city bike system, taken into use during the previous period, have also become established and increased their popularity. A sizeable zone renewal and ticket system renewal have also been carried out, contributing to the increase in passenger volumes. The Travel Survey 2018 indicated that the popularity of sustainable modes of transport – i.e. walking, cycling and public transport – has grown. They already account for 60% of all travel.

Despite the increase in ticket revenue, the costs of public transport have also increased considerably during the monitoring period, mainly due to large-scale infrastructure projects. Even so, the growth particularly in the popularity of rail transport, walking and cycling is an important outcome in terms of the agreement’s objectives, given that the objective was to promote sustainable mobility.

Lessons learned during the monitoring period: goals give cooperation a backbone

Clear goals have played their part in helping the municipalities of the Helsinki region to commit to the jointly thought-out planning principles and outlooks or, in other words, the common intent mentioned in the agreement. The roots of the MAL agreement procedure lie in the work carried out in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area’s transport system planning, which began in the late 1990s; the MAL agreement which just came to an end is indeed already the third such agreement in the Helsinki region. The long-term basis and continuity in the sometimes even challenging cooperation between the municipalities has borne fruit. The ambitious goals of the 2016–2019 monitoring period were achieved, and the extension of the MAL cooperation is also well under way by now. The new MAL agreement for the Helsinki region has been negotiated, and its objectives are, at least in terms of housing production, even tougher than during the period which just ended. The entire region’s housing production target is 16,500 housing units a year, and the annual target for detailed plans meant for housing is 1.5 million m2 (GFA). The preparations for the new MAL 2023 plan are also already under way.

The large-scale rail infrastructure projects have clearly contributed to planning and residential construction with good locations, which consolidates the community structure in line with the agreement’s objectives. More than half of the housing units and housing plans completed during the agreement period are located less than a kilometre away from the stations of heavy rail transport or the Raide-Jokeri light-rail routing. Planning and construction by way of completing the existing urban structure is slower and requires more resources than the planning and construction of entirely new areas. This means that a lot of work has been done in the municipalities for this achievement. Naturally, favourable economic development in the region and long-term land use planning even during earlier agreement periods has also contributed to the achievement of the objectives.

Further information available online:
MAL 2019 Summary report in English (pdf)
HSY (MAL monitoring, in Finnish)
kartta.hsy.fi (Map service, MAL monitoring)
Ministry of the Environment (Land use and building)
HSL (MAL 2019 plan, in Finnish)