Housing discrimination occurs in Finland and is underreported by the media

by , under Enrique Tessieri

A news story in YLE News about housing  for immigrants highlights one area where discrimination happens but is underreported by the media. Contrary to discrimination in the labor market and at night clubs, reported by YLE, housing is another area where migrants and minorities face discrimination. 

A common urban tale spread by anti-immigration groups and bigots is that Finland’s neighborhoods are turning into ghettos because migrants don’t want to integrate.

Migrants and minorities live in nighborhoods with others of the same background because of council housing, they are less prone to suffer from racist harassment and because they are excluded from renting in other parts of the city.

Groups like Somalis are exceptionally dependent on the social rental sector due to its affordability and reliability. In 2003 some 70% of Somalis in Helsinki lived in council housing, predominantly flats; only 1% of them lived in owner-occupied housing.

Näyttökuva 2016-7-18 kello 17.43.38
Read full story here.

According to an Afrophobia shadow report published earlier this year by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a Brussels-based NGO, pointed out that especially Somalis suffer from housing discrimination.

Very rarely if ever will a person who is renting an apartment tell the prospective tenant the real reason why he or she won’t rent the apartment. Some common excuses for not renting the apartment are that it’s been rented or that they have postponed plans to rent the flat.

Just like with ethnic profiling, where the police service insists that it doesn’t stop people because of their ethnic background, discrimination in the housing market isn’t seen as a problem as well since public officials and the media don’t appear too interested. Housing discrimination happens more often in Finland where there are migrants.

How many homeowners or real estate agents have been persecuted for discrimination? If there are any, they must be very few.

Apart from discrimination on the basis of ethnic background, homeowners have some fears about renting to migrants and minorities. Since housing is so expensive in Helsinki, some migrants and minorities have no choice but to live in crammed apartments.

It is surprising that the YLE article doesn’t mention the role that discrimination plays in housing.