Mayor Vartiainen: Helsinki to facilitate conversion of business premises into housing

The changes that have taken place in the operating environment, such as an increase in remote working, changed shopping behaviour and the demand for city centre spaces shifting towards experiences, have made it necessary to assess the principles for changing the purpose of use of buildings. At the initiative of Mayor Juhana Vartiainen, the City of Helsinki has begun work to update these principles and facilitate the conversion of business premises.
Part of Helsinki city centre area.
Part of the Helsinki city centre area. Photo: Omar El Mrabt / Helsinki Partners

“We need more housing in the city centre. There is a clear, longer-term trend of businesses and offices requiring fewer square metres of space. Meanwhile, every major city is thinking about ways to attract people to the city centre. One necessary method is to increase housing in the city centre. It’s now high time to begin this work and rapidly make our way to concrete measures,” remarks Mayor Vartiainen. 

In the first phase of this process, the City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division will begin work to produce information on the current ratio of business premises to housing in Helsinki from an economic perspective. The review will also examine how this ratio could be influenced in practice through actions by the City of Helsinki.

The aim of this work is to facilitate building conversion and support an increase in housing in the city centre. The information produced as a result can also be used on a more general level in strategic land use planning, such as in updating the city plan implementation programme and in possible city plan work pertaining to business premises areas.

The work will be carried out in late 2023. As a continuation of this work, an analysis will be conducted on how supervision by the Urban Environment Division affects the implementation of conversions. The review will cover the city plan and local detailed plans, the guidelines on the development of the city centre and the principles of facility conversion, among other things. 

The policies concerning conversions will be updated and presented as a proposal to the Urban Environment Committee before being presented for decision to the City Board. The work will also improve the capability to assess the need to update the city plan from this perspective.

From autumn 2023 onwards, the Urban Environment Division will make sure that conversions of business premises into housing in the city centre are approached more flexibly than before, with case-by-case consideration.