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Questionnaire 2003 finlande.doc
Interactions between national housing
policies and legislation, directives,
initiatives, programmes and decisions
of the European Union
An overview for the 15th EU Housing Ministers Conference, to be held
in Italy, Rome from 30-31 October 2003
COUNTRY : FINLAND
Person responsible for the questionnaire
Ministry / organisation: Ministry of theEnvironmentAddress: PO Box 35, FIN-00023
12 experts in the Ministry of the Environment
Telephone: +358 9 160 39613Fax: +358 9 160 39634
Document to be returned in English or French to
for 8th august 2003 at the latest (parts 1 and 2)
What are the impacts of existing EU legislation, directives and decisions on your national policy,
organisational system, public aid measures and financing with regard to housing.
A. Current legislation
Finland has had competitive bidding in state-subsidised housing production since 1976. The current rules andregulations are to be found in the Act on State-subsidized Housing Loans (ARAVA Act), and the Actson InterestSubsidy for Rental Housing Loans and on Interest Subsidy for Right-of-occupancy Housing Loans. Newbuildingand thorough repair, except for such undertaken by the owner-dweller himself, has to be based on competitivebidding procedures, unless the State Housing Fund grants an exemption for special reasons. Such exemption maybe granted in cases where the building company owns the plot and engages in infill building, or a building for oldpeople located close to services. At present, competitive bidding is arranged in all basic repair projects and in morethan 70 percent of newbuilding projects. For more competition, besides the traditional competitive bidding forbuilding projects, it would be necessary to develop new types of competition and new rules of the game which areeasy to put into practice.
In Finland, state-subsidised housing is provided by non-profit organisations (indicated in legislation) and by localauthorities or companies actually owned by local authorities. The two latter are public procurement units regulatedby the Act on Public Procurement. Under the Act, competitive bidding is to be used not only for building but also forbuilding design and building commissioning, unless the local authorities and the companies owned by them have abuilding commissioning organisation of their own. The duty of public procurement units to organise competitivebidding should be further developed so as to enable the local authorities to cooperate with one another and thususe their resources more efficiently.
More than half of the service dwellings in Finland have been built by associations which have received partialfinancing by means of subsidies from the Finnish Slot Machine Association. Impartial competition is gainingincreased attention in this subsidising. A recent Act (2002) on subsidies from the Association forbids subsidising ofprojects which may cause more than insignificant trade and market distortion. The Act on Public Procurementrequires local authorities to arrange for competitive bidding in service procurement. The Slot Machine Associationcan only subsidise service procurement where the local authorities have arranged competitive bidding for theservice project, and the tenders have made it clear that there is no actual competition on the local market for theproduction of the required services.
In Finland state loans and interest subsidies for building, purchasing and renovation of rental, right-of-occupancyand owner-occupied housing are compatible with state aid rules in the common market. Newbuilding andrenovation are based on competitive bidding, with the exception of building on residents' own initiative, unless theHousing Fund of Finland grants an exemption for a special reason. The Act on State-subsidized Housing Loansalso contains a provision that the state and local authorities and other contracting entities shall observe the PublicProcurement Act in their contracts.
State loans and subsidies are granted to a local authority or other public corporation, corporations engaged ininsurance business and to a corporation (non-profit organisation) that fulfils the preconditions laid down in the Act.
The purpose of these provisions and preconditions is to ensure that State subsidies are channelled to social-economically disadvantaged residents on a means-tested basis. Another aim is to ensure that benefit granted in
the form of State loans or subsidy remains in the hands of these organisations for which it was intended, and thatthese organisations do not act in a way that might endanger repayment of their state loans.
Value added tax (VAT) is a general tax on consumption levied on the commercial selling of goods and services. Acompany engaged in such business is liable for payment of VAT. VAT is not applied if a company's yearly turnoveris no more than EUR 8500.
The general VAT rate is 22%, which is also applied to housing construction and housing services. There has beenno need to apply reduced rates to the housing sector.
The goal of the Construction Products Directive (89/106/EEC) is to open the internal market of constructionproducts and to remove technical barriers to trade in the construction field.
Finland has implemented the Construction Products Directive once in the 1990s and is preparing newimplementing legislation at this time. The first implementation took place in the mid-1990s in the Building Act and inthe National Building Code of Finland. The Building Act was revised totally at the end of the 1990s and the newLand Use and Building Act came into force on 1.1.2000. The main requirements of the Construction ProductsDirective will now be implemented under a new Construction Products Approval Act and Decree which come intoforce from the 1st of January 2004.
The actual implementation of the Construction Products Directive has been delayed because of slow progress inharmonising product specifications (harmonised products standards and European Technical Approvals). It is notpossible to affix a CE marking without a European technical specification. Nowadays, CE marking is possibleaccording to nearly 100 harmonised products standards; and 400-500 harmonised standards are still underpreparation.
Political pressure is needed to speed up the progress of European technical specifications, mainly harmonisedproducts standards, and to reserve enough human and financial resources for that task.
The member states have an obligation to adjust their technical provisions (regulations, standards) according tothese harmonised standards. In many cases, member states have failed to do this and some member statescontinue to include protective measures in their provisions.
The commission should take a more active role in ensuring that all member states act according to the EU rulesand the CPD. The construction Unit of DG Enterprise should also have adequate human resources for pursuing theopen internal market.
The targets of the internal market in the construction field are to increase competition, to improve quality and/orlower prices. Better value for money for customers.
Information to be given to borrowers by lenders offering home loans :
Finland has implemented the Directive on Consumer Credits (87/102/EEC) through the Act Amending Chapter 7(consumer credits) of the Consumer Protection Act in 1993. The only loans not covered by this Act are loansgranted from public funds. With that exemption the Consumer Protection Act is applicable to all housing.
The right to "housing assistance so as to ensure a decent existence for all those who lack sufficient resources" isrecognised in Article 34 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In line with this, a provision(paragraph 4 of section 15a) was added to the Finnish Constitution Act in 1999, emphasizing the role of central andlocal authorities in promoting the right of everyone to decent housing: "It shall be the task of public authorities topromote the right of everyone to a dwelling and to support theefforts of persons to provide their own housing."
In the right to housing is not guaranteed as a justifiable right, apart from specific exceptions related to children andthe disabled. In law the right to housing is provided for in legislation covering child protection and services for thedisabled. The justifiable right to housing is enshrined in child protection legislation, according to which a localauthority must (i) put right deficiencies in housing conditions or (ii) arrange according to need a home for a family inwhich a child's safety is endangered as a result of deficient housing conditions or lack of home. Legislation onservices for the disabled provides the justifiable right to a service home arranged by the municipality for a severelydisabled person who does not, however, need continuous institutional care.
Additionally, in accordance with specific legislation, local authorities must take steps to improve housing conditionsthat particularly benefit the homeless and those whose housing conditions are inadequate. Local authorities arealso obliged to create the preconditions necessary for improving housing conditions.
European strategy to tackle social exclusion :
By advocating the basic Nordic principles of universal social welfare and health services and a comprehensiveincome security system, Finland has been able to minimise levels of poverty and wider social exclusion. For thisreason, under the Finnish National Action Plans against Poverty and Social Exclusion, for 2001-2003 and 2003-2005, measures aimed at improving and reinforcing the universal system have been adopted. At the same time,there is greater emphasis on the primacy of work and on the listing of a specific number of risk factors andvulnerable groups. These latter include the long-term unemployed, people with alcohol and drug abuse problems,young people and families with children at risk of exclusion, homeless people and immigrants. The objective ofFinland's programme for the reduction of homelessness is to stem the increase in homelessness and to bringabout a downturn in the number of homeless people by 2004. The target is to produce 1000 new dwellings yearlyand to provide support services for the homeless. Another important housing policy target in the action plans is tostrengthen the social balance of the population in cities, housing areas and neighbourhoods.
In Finland, the Ministry of the Interior is, together with the Ministry of the Environment and many other ministries,responsible for the planning and development of urban policy. However, the position of the Ministry of theEnvironment is special insofar as it is responsible for legislation on land use and building.
In the Land Use and Building Act (1999) the overriding approach is promotion of sustainable development. Theobjective of the Act is to ensure that the use of land and water areas and the building activities on them createpreconditions for a favourable living environment and promote ecologically, economically, socially and culturallysustainable development. So, a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to sustainability is taken in Finland.
Finland is an active partner in the EU Expert Working Group on Urban Design for Sustainability. The main objectiveof the working group is to deliver a set of recommendations based on the Urban Environment Thematic Strategy ofDG Environment to the European Commission. The work will be finished by the end of 2003.
Finnish urban regions are active participants in European urban networks. One such is Eurocities, which focuseson issues related to major towns and cities. It engages Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu.
Finland is striving to make the built environment accessible to all in line with EU principles for abolishingsegregation of disabled persons and to facilitate their participation in all activities.
Legislation on newbuilding is aimed at making buildings more accessible. Section 53.2 of the new Land Use andBuilding Degree states that residential buildings and appurtenant premises should correspond to the requirementson the number of users, number of storeys, and other conditions to facilitate access everywhere. More detailedregulations are to be found in the National BuildingCode, which includes requirements on the design andinstallation of lifts and other points of access. At present, these regulations are being amended so as to incorporatemore fully all aspects of accessibility.
The State Housing Fund grants subsidies to improve accessibility in the present building stock, for example, forrepairs intended to abolish obstacles to allow free access for all. Subsides may amount to 40 percent for theinstallation of lifts and for similar repairs, in Arava rental housing even up to 50 percent. Additionally, many localauthorities support the installation of lifts by an average ten percent additional funding. There has also been muchinformation and training to improve accessibility in buildings, and in some cases the local authorities haveemployed lift ombudsmen to speed up the installation of lifts.
Service houses for disabled persons have mainly been built by associations, and the projects have been partlyfinanced by the Finnish Slot Machine Association. By law, seriously disabled persons have a subjective right toservice housing.
Housing allowances may be adjusted so as to correspond to the greater need for space caused by seriousdisability.
Finnish immigration policy takes into account the Commission’s notifications on granting asylum, on the aims ofimmigration policy and on open coordination in immigration policies. A special Act has been issued on theadmission of immigrants to Finland and the integration of immigrants into the society. The latter requires a specialplan to be worked out for the integration process; the provision of housing is a part of the integration measures.
The Finnish Constitution states that all people are equal. The Constitution also grants every Finnish citizen andlegal resident freedom of movement and of choice of residence. In 2001, the Government approved an action planon abolishing segregation and racism. This plan foresees the EU directive prohibiting segregation and alsootherwise takes EU guidelines into account.
The Finnish authorities organise first dwellings for refugees, and people in a corresponding situation. The localauthorities in areas where people are to be settled are responsible for organising housing.As part of theirintegration. . Government authorities are responsible for housing those seeking asylum. Return immigrants fromIngria are required to have housing before acceptance. For other immigrant groups, dwellings are arranged as forthe rest of the population.
The local authorities generally house immigrants in Arava rental dwellings owned by the local authorities or by non-profit organisations. If there is a shortage of such housing, the State Housing Fund may grant financial aid towardsthe acquisition of dwellings.
New regulations and guidelines in the National Building Code of Finland concerning thermal insulation andventilation in buildings are coming into force on 1 October 2003. The regulations also include a method forcalculation of the energy performance of buildings. These have been prepared over several years, so it was notpossible to implement the directive on the energy performance of buildings with these regulations. The actualimplementation of the directive will be fulfilled by the introduction of new energy performance requirements, a newcalculation method for the energy performance of buildings and relevant legislation and administrative provisions atthe beginning of the year 2006.
Others (f.i. : contentious with European Commission, decisions of the European Court of Justice,…)
B. EU legislation (and amendments) in preparation
Others ( f.i. Transposition of Basel II Accord (on level of bank reserves for loans) into EU law; reduced VAT ratesfor housing maintenance and construction,…)
Regarding the transposition of the Basel II Accord, the Ministry of the Environment is concerned with the proposedrequirements set on government guarantees (which lead to zero capital requirement). In particular, the requirementaccording to which the lending institution must have the right to pursue the guarantor for monies directly, ratherthan having to pursue the obligor to recover its exposure is problematic. In Finland, the government guarantees inthe field of housing are based on the lender organising the realisation of the collateral in the case of default, afterwhich the government guarantee is applied.
Do the institutions active in housing benefit from EU-funds ?
Basically it is possible for an institution active in housing to benefit from SF's. In the Finnish Programmes(Objective 1 and 2) there are eligible activities such as the restoration of culturally and historically valuablebuildings and the planning and rehabilitation of empty industrial buildings. If the goal is to restore a building orrehabilitate an industrial building for residential use, the answer is yes. It is also possible to finance projects whichenhance living conditions and improve the environment and security of socially problematic districts.
For example, in the Eastern Finland Objective 1 area a project was financed where a historically valuable buildingwas renovated for office premises and residential use. The total EU financing from ERDF was €40 000. The projectwas implemented by a property consortium.
There are also projects where a municipality carries out implementation. Mainly these are projects where culturallyand historically valuable buildings are renovated for new uses. For example, in the Northern Finland Objective 1area a renovation project is receiving financing of €272 000 from ERDF.
During the period 2000-2006, four regional Objective Programmes will be implemented. Examples of projects
which are directly or indirectly related to housing are the following:
planning of residential environments which are accessible to all residents
planning of new ways to activate residents to participate in the development of their living conditions
development of city-centres and integration of urban structures
preventing long-term unemployment and severe social problems in housing estates by creating new jobs,and by training and strengthening the role of local organizations in integrating immigrants
The institution active in housing could be a partner in a project of Interreg III A or B. It is possible to financeprojects promoting energy savings, protection of national heritage sites, cooperation in waste disposal and so on.
The secretariats of Interreg III Baltic Sea Region and Interreg III B Northern Periphery programmes are outside ofFinland, so it is not possible for Finland to provide information on possible projects.]
Finland is implementing four Community initiatives as a part of the Urban II (2000-2006)Programme. One of them, the Urban II Community Initiative in Helsinki and Vantaa started in 2001. The vision is
liveable eastern suburbs in a well-balanced metropolitan area. Some twenty projects are being carriedout. They are aimed at improving employment opportunities, supporting residents’ participation andpromoting social inclusion. Housing-related projects are:
Housing Counsellor (Ombudsman)The task of the counsellor is to improve cooperation between authorities and tenants living in social rental housing,
decrease the number of evictions and help tenants with economic and social problems.
The purpose is to renovate courtyards, parks, children’s playgrounds and club rooms. Some of the work is done by
Community artResidents and artists together create art that features their community.
Community projectSupporting parenthood, preventing the exclusion of young people, children and immigrants and preparing young
Loans from the European Investment Bank :
Financial agreement between the State Housing Fund and the European Investment Bank
In November 2001, the State Housing Fund and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a financial agreement
worth 300 million euro, under which the Fund will diversify its long-term borrowing at competitive prices.
This agreement is noteworthy, seeing that the EIB has not previously participated in financing state-subsidisedhousing production. For the Bank, this is a pilot project, also providing guidelines for new financing decisions in thehousing production sector. Under the agreement, financing was channelled both to newbuilding and to financingbasic repairs in 2001 and 2002. The newbuilding is to be infill development (brownfield site areas). The projectstresses energy efficiency in the projects financed by the Housing Fund, both for newbuilding and for basic repairprojects. The final reporting on the project was done in spring 2003. Subsequently, the EIB has taken an interest insimilar new projects, based on the favourable experiences gained.
1) A Finnish LIFE Environment project financed in 2002:
GREEN VALLEY : e SALON - Operation model of environmentalmanagement in the Salo region
The Green Valley project was aimed at diversifying environmental management models in the Salo region (11
municipalities). At the outset an acceptable environmental strategy was worked out for the public sector,non-governmental organisations and business and industry. This was then translated into regional aimswhich varied from the protection of the cultural heritage and landscapes to promotion of modernenvironmental technology and utilisation of information technology in environmental protection. The totalcosts amounted to €464 600, the LIFE financing to €229 050.
2) A Finnish LIFE Environment project financed in 1999:
Vital Vaasa – Pilot framework and action programme for revitalisation ofthe water cycle in an urban landscape.
The project tested a revitalisation of the circulation of rainwater in the centre of the town of Vaasa by using new
technology, improved planning and training of decision-makers and planners. The revitalised circulation,purification and increased use of rainwater may contribute to an ecological renewal of the town and makeit more pleasant to live in. The total costs are €776 691.85, the LIFE financing €381 870.69.
3. Optional questions (to be returned before 26th september 2003).
What is the position of your country concerning the reform of structural funds for 2007-2013 period?
Housing is not an area of competence of the European Union. Repeatedly, the Housing Ministers have statedthat they have no need for European housing policy. Nevertheless, as you are aware, certain Europeanlegislation directly and indirectly affects housing policy at national, regional and local levels. Because there isno “assessment framework” of the European Union to assess the impact of EU legislation, and more or lessthe regular amendments thereof, it is difficult for housing institutions (national governments, municipalities,etc.) to be aware in time of the relevance of such (adapted) legislation. Would your country be in favour ofrecommending that such an “assessment framework” be developed ?
Was this a response or a question on the questionnaire?
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