The first 19 years of my life I lived in a single-family house, complete with garden and all, in a small town. But when I moved away to study, I suddenly had a lot less living space. Adjusting to living in a block of flats in a city took some time, but cooped up in a closet-sized flat during my year as an exchange student, I finally learnt that happiness cannot be counted in square metres.
Many others of my generation have experienced the same thing. Owning something is not a value in itself, and respect is more easily earned through experiences than with a new Audi. People are looking for homes with a good location and hardwood floors, not loads of space and plastic flooring. Hopes are also affected by the way the prices are moving: the average price per square metre in Helsinki is more than €4,000, and much higher downtown. At the same time, an increasing number of young people come to realise that they never will achieve the same income as their parents. On the property market, you may have to think twice about your options and buying a first flat, especially in a downtown location, may be out of your reach if you’re under thirty. Renting a flat has become an acceptable and even tempting option for people approaching middle age also.
This summer, I’ve been working as a site engineer trainee at Fira’s building site in Rastila, where we are building rental flats for Lumo and right-of-occupancy housing for Asuntosäätiö. Although not that big, the flats have excellent layouts and they fully meet the needs of my generation. The location, next door to the metro and near a beach, is more important than the number of square metres. Similar housing is being built elsewhere in Helsinki, and judging by the prices, there is a serious shortage of one-room flats for rent.
Maybe we are on our way towards a future where homes do not contain extra studies and guest rooms. When we need more space, we take our lives outdoors, to the courtyards and parks. We apply the KonMari method to declutter and borrow our neighbours drilling machine when we need one. There will be DYI workshops and a new sense of community spirit. Although we may cut down on our private space, we gain more common space.