The City of Helsinki’s Housing Advice Service


The City of Helsinki’s Housing Advice Service

Mismatches Segregation Vulnerable groups
Policies and regulations Local policies Governance Evictions

Main objectives of the project

The inception of Helsinki's Housing Advice Service in 2006 marked a proactive response to rising evictions, emphasizing prevention and collaborative efforts between social services and property companies. By addressing diverse challenges like rent arrears and mental health issues, the service aligns with national housing policies and underscores the importance of public support in preventing homelessness. With estimated savings of up to €20,000 per prevented eviction, the service demonstrates its cost-effectiveness and potential for adaptation in other countries.


  • 2006: Implementation


  • Helsinki City Hall
  • Heka


Continent: Europe
City: Helsinki
Country/Region: Finland, Helsinki


In 2008, the number of evictions in Helsinki skyrocketed. This prompted social services and property companies to advocate for a collaborative approach to combat homelessness, prevent evictions, and engage in practical social work. According to property companies, pressing issues in various districts of Helsinki included rent arrears, substance abuse, mental health challenges, poor flat maintenance, and cultural conflicts among residents.

This marked the inception of the Housing Advice Service in 2006, a structured housing social work initiative by the City of Helsinki aimed at preventing homelessness. Operating on client-focused strategies and local cooperation, the service emerged in response to mounting demands from social services and property companies. National objectives for the service were introduced in 2009, aligning it with government housing policies to mitigate long-term homelessness. Currently, Helsinki is drafting a homelessness action plan with a strong emphasis on prevention.

Holding onto a home is fundamental, underscoring the importance of organizing public services to offer adequate support to individuals at risk of homelessness. Preventing evictions not only addresses homelessness but also mitigates various health and social issues. Moreover is a huge save for the public budget. Acting on the consequences is way more expensive for the taxpayer money due to associate costs on health, shelters, etc. In Helsinki, the Housing Advice Service has prioritized collaboration with the largest property company, Heka, particularly regarding rent arrears and other housing challenges. It offers a multi-channel service, including office meetings, home visits, and consultations via telephone or email.

The service has expanded to include housing advisers, currently numbering 16, alongside the addition of a psychiatric nurse and a tenant mentor program for residents with migrant backgrounds. Digital services have been developed to cater to advice and guidance needs, complemented by financial and debt counseling for residents in debt. Operated under the City of Helsinki Social Service and Health Care Division, some personnel expenses are covered by Heka and the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA).

The estimated savings resulting from the service range from €5000 to €20,000 per prevented eviction, with the service deemed self-sustainable if it prevents at least 23 evictions annually, based on the minimum saving of €5000. Despite the immediate financial gains, the broader human impact and cumulative effects of preventing evictions are also significant considerations.

The efficacy of housing advice operations is evident in reducing rent arrears, lowering eviction rates, and enhancing the city's housing-related social work capacities. Standardized cooperation processes and swift interventions have decreased homelessness risks and yielded substantial public finance savings. Between 2009 and 2018, the service recorded a total of 62,153 client contacts.

The success of the housing advice service in Helsinki suggests its potential for adaptation and implementation in other countries, contingent upon adjustments to local operational environments, public administration structures, and financing mechanisms. Collaboration with third-sector operators specializing in homelessness issues is crucial for the initiative's success, as demonstrated by Helsinki's experience in addressing systemic changes related to social structures, segregation, and public administration.