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Study: Property value concerns of Finland's NIMBY crowd unfounded

Neighbourhood fears that rehab centres will pull down property prices have no foundation in reality, according to a new Yle analysis of eight major cities.

Ilmakuva Helsingin kantakaupungista.
Aerial photo of Helsinki Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Finnish public broadcaster Yle examined the effects of outpatient care facilities on nearby real estate prices in eight Finnish municipalities between the years of 2009 and 2018 and found no evidence of significant property value loss for people living nearby the centres.

Relying on comprehensive data from the Central Federation of Finnish Real Estate Agencies, the price per square metre for over 12,000 dwellings located within 500 metres of 29 round-the-clock social service centres was analysed, and the result indicated that prices were not noticeably different for property located closest to the centres.

In the cities of Helsinki, Tampere and Jyväskylä, for example, the average price per square meter for homes that were less than 100 metres from an outpatient substance abuse or mental health centre was actually higher than for homes that were located between 100 and 500 metres away. The same was true for the city of Lahti until this year, when the price of homes closer to the social service centres fell suddenly.

In the cities of Espoo, Turku and Oulu, the average price of homes located closer to the social service centres has been the same or lower since 2009, but each of these cities saw a spike in average property value for homes closer to the facilities in 2017 and 2018. Kuopio saw the same spike in value in late 2016, but prices for homes that are nearer to the centres have fallen there since that time.

One in five has reservations

The latest mental health barometer carried out in Finland suggests that 20 percent of the country's residents are uncomfortable with the idea of living next to a rehabilitation facility for people with mental health issues, for example.

Jukka Kärkkäinen, chief physician with the National Institute of Health and Welfare THL, says that people's negative attitudes are behind the prejudice.

"People associate mental health patients with traits that are difficult to tolerate. Some may even believe that they are dangerous or violent," he says.

NIMBY specialist not surprised

University of Tampere researcher Veikko Eranti studies the "Not In My Backyard" or NIMBY phenomenon in Finland. By definition, NIMBY residents tend to oppose new property development near their home, but often have no problem with the slated premises being built farther away.

Eranti says he is not surprised by Yle's findings.

"Making a case for falling property values is easy because everyone understands it. It is seen as a legitimate argument in Finland's political culture," he says.

The second argument NIMBY people tend use is the effect something will have on children's safety. "Things will no longer be safe for children" is a statement that is often used, Eranti says.

Third on the list is the claim that the roads in the area will become too congested.

"People oppose a home for the disabled in their area because they say the taxi traffic would block their access," he says.

The case of Kauniainen

Eranti cites a specific incident in the well-to-do capital region city of Kauniainen, where local residents protested the founding of a group home for underage asylum seekers. A letter from the group made the case that the building in the "sleepy suburb of Kauniainen" that would have been repurposed to house the youth was too nice and would therefore "give them the completely wrong impression about the daily lives of ordinary Finns".

"After they had exhausted all their other arguments, the neighbours were then saying that the building's eaves presented a fire hazard. One could perhaps come to the conclusion that the underlying problem was never really a genuine fire safety concern," Eranti says.

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