Tatu Rauhamäki, Chairman of the Helsinki City Council, is preparing for the future needs of Helsinki over a period of 50 to 100 years.
What kind of Helsinki should we be building?
I agree with Mayor Jussi Pajunen: fun and functional is a good definition of what Helsinki should be like. A city must be pleasant but also well-functioning.
A vibrant city centre is particularly important, as it also creates business opportunities. There are clear signs of people increasingly moving to the city centre, and of the heart of Helsinki expanding.
It is unfortunate that the municipalities in the Helsinki metropolitan area have to compete with each other for the headquarters of major companies and tax revenues. We should rather be competing for corporate headquarters with the other Nordic capitals. For this reason, a unified metropolitan area would be a better solution than the current arrangement, which consists of several separate municipalities.
What are the needs for urban planning in the Helsinki metropolitan area?
Helsinki keeps growing. Its population is predicted to grow by 200,000 between now and 2050. Helsinki needs more apartments in order to cope with the growth.
A small portion of the need can be met by converting vacant industrial and commercial properties into residential units, but that is not enough. We also need complementary construction. We must explore all opportunities for new construction. However, I still have my doubts about boulevard-type construction by exit routes. Its actual benefits and costs have not been examined yet. The prices of the apartments will be so high that the development of the city will come to a halt.
Toll roads have also been discussed in Helsinki. What is your opinion?
I’m critical of road user charges. They sound like a good idea for reducing traffic and emissions in the city centre, but they may affect the government’s willingness to participate in traffic investments in the region. In addition, the money spent on road user charges reduces other consumption.
It is also possible that the charges will be low at the beginning, but will be increased drastically later. For example, congestion charges in Stockholm increased by 75 per cent this year.
Text: Johanna Hytönen