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Tiny homes drawing interest - and profits - in Finland

Homes as small as 15 square metres are cropping up in Finland, but critics say they're a throwback to tenement housing used to accommodate the working poor.

Vain 15,5 neliön kodissa ulko-ovi avautuu suoraan keittiöön rappukäytävästä, ei ulkoa, kuten tässä esittelykontista otetussa kuvassa. Vastapäätä keittiötä on WC. Ruokapöydän voi vetää ulos parvelle johtavien rappujen alta.
Image: SATO Oyj / Tuomas Uusheimo

Critics say newly-built micro apartments are more closely rooted in a bygone era of poverty rather than trendy minimalist design.

Rental housing company Sato recently put the finishing touches on 68 diminutive, 15-square-metre studio apartments in Vantaa that will be available for 500 euros per month.

The flats feature six-square-metre sleeping lofts and two-square-metre balconies. The firm had to apply for a special permit for the construction of the mini-studio building as local code stipulates minimum home sizes of at least 20 square metres.

Story continues after photo

Vain 15,5 neliön asunto on valoisa lähes koko päätyseinän peittävän ikkunan takia. Ovi avautuu ranskalaiselle parvekkeelle.
Image: SATO Oyj / Tuomas Uusheimo

Sato CEO Erkka Valkila told Yle that the tiny homes aim to supply the strong demand for small apartments in the capital city area. He says the firm worked with large service sector employers to figure out which types of apartments best serve their workers.

Meanwhile, housing company YIT has ventured into its own micro-housing initiative. Their brand-new 24-square-metre homes located at the massive construction site of Helsinki’s Pasila railway station and shopping centre, Tripla, are already on the market for 222,700 euros apiece.

"Not in a welfare country"

Mari Vaattovaara, an urban studies professor at the University of Helsinki, told national daily Helsingin Sanomat this week that the construction of micro homes doesn’t correspond with Finland’s welfare state image. She also says that the smaller an apartment is, the higher per-square-metre price it will fetch on the property market.

Vaattovaara notes that Finland is jumping on a worldwide trend of shrinking homes. In the UK, for example, the government downsized minimum residential home requirements from 45 to 37 square metres.

The average person in Finland has 40 square metres of living space, though residents in the capital city area have to do with a bit less at 37 square metres per person.

Architect Stefan Ahlman pushes back against Vartiovaara’s criticism, pointing out that one and two-person households are becoming increasingly common and that students and seniors may want less space. Everybody doesn't want a living room, hallway and separate bedroom, he notes.

”But Vartiovaara is right in that homes can’t continue shrinking to the point that you can only buy one banana at a time because you don't have the room,” he says.

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