Blocks of flats in Rovaniemi in June 2020. Known as the capital of Finnish Lapland, the 65,000-resident city has the highest number of short-term rentals relative to its housing stock, according to a report by STT. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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MUNICIPALITIES in Finland may be allowed to determine whether or not to permit short-term rentals such as those marketed on Airbnb, reports STT.

The Finnish government has unveiled a draft proposal that would allow municipalities to define in their building code whether short-term rental activities are allowed in residential buildings and neighbourhoods designated for housing.

The sole exception from the possible prohibition would be owner-occupied residential dwellings.

Kirsi Martinkauppi, a senior ministerial adviser at the Ministry of the Environment, stated to STT on Sunday that municipalities could effectively allow short-term rentals or prohibit them entirely or partly. The leeway is intended to account for differences between the municipal housing and accommodation markets.

“The Rovaniemi city centre has a lot of Airbnb flats, as does Helsinki. Then we have a lot of municipalities where Airbnb isn’t especially widespread,” she explained.

She pointed out that the question can be approached from a number of rivalling viewpoints. Some argue that short-term rentals should be regulated as little as possible on grounds of property protection, others that short-term rentals compete unfairly against hotels because they need not comply with regulation on accommodation services.

Such activity has also caused various kinds of disturbance to nearby residents.

“For example, I’ve got a phone call where someone was annoyed that even the bed sheets had disappeared from the laundry room,” illustrated Martinkauppi.

The draft proposal would also seek to do away with the ambiguity associated with short-term rentals by defining stays exceeding four weeks as housing.

The Finnish Landlord Association has criticised the draft proposal as needlessly restrictive.

“We’re most dissatisfied with the fact that the current proposal wouldn’t do anything to distinguish between widespread, professional-like hotel operations from an individual making an investment property available as a short-term rental for a part of the year,” Tarik Ahsanullah, the director of legal affairs at the association, said to STT on Sunday.

The City of Rovaniemi has Finland’s highest number of short-term rentals relative to its housing stock, which consisted of roughly 39,000 dwellings in 2023. The city highlighted in a statement that its accommodation providers received a total of 250,000 bookings through platforms in 2022, the second highest total in Finland after Helsinki.

The 65,000-resident city has criticised the proposal for “legalising” the current kinds of “primarily illegal” accommodation operations with no concern for its effects on different sectors of society: short-term rental activities push up prices, limiting housing options for students and seasonal workers, and undermine the vitality of the city centre by making service demand highly seasonal.

“Whereas short-term rental activities focus on the winter season, local services require year-round demand,” it said.

The situation is already reflected in the occupancy rate of blocks of flats, the rate being lower in Rovaniemi than other growth centres and university cities.

The public comment period for the draft proposal will end on Thursday, 6 June. The government has outlined that the proposal should enter into effect at the beginning of 2026.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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