Every third housing estate resident feels trapped

Involuntary staying, a type of housing trap, is a common experience among people living on housing estates, since around one in three residents feel that they are trapped in their current residential arrangements. More than half of them would like to move away from their current neighbourhoods.

According to the residents’ own estimation, the most common cause for involuntary staying is economic but the overall housing market situation also has an effect. This is according to a recent study by the University of Helsinki, which looked at people's experience of being involuntarily trapped in their current residential setting on Finland's housing estates.

Involuntary staying refers to a situation where a household would like to move away from their current residence but, for one reason or another, are unable to do so. There is very little previous international research done on involuntary staying. With regard to the prevalence of involuntary staying, the results of the current study are fairly in line with a prior British study focusing on the entire population.

The study found involuntary staying to be a potential health risk. The experience of involuntary staying is typically linked with perceived poor health. According to the researchers, this may be caused by the prolonged stress of involuntary staying, where the current residential arrangements do not correspond to the needs of the household.

- On the other hand, it may also be a question of selection, since poor health is often linked with insufficient economic resources that can lead to involuntary staying, says Teemu Kemppainen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki.

The study also found that cramped residential arrangements, living in a multi-storey building and in publicly subsidised rental accommodation all contributed to the experience of poor health.  

The experience of being trapped explains regional differences in health

Differences in health between residential areas have been studied extensively but a comprehensive explanation of the phenomenon has not been found. The current study sheds new light on the matter, since the experience of involuntary staying was found to partly explain these differences.

Disadvantaged areas are typically considered undesirable residential areas. Due to economic resources, the residents of these areas have little choice over where they live.

- The experience of stress related to involuntary staying is fairly common in these areas, which helps to explain differences in health between residential areas, says Kemppainen.

The study is based on comprehensive survey material collected from housing estates in Finland in 2013. In all, 71 housing estates from across the country were chosen as sample material for the study.

The study was published in the Urban Studies journal.

Article: Kemppainen, T., Elovainio, M., Kortteinen, M., & Vaattovaara, M. (2019). Involuntary staying and self-rated health: A multilevel study on housing, health and neighbourhood effects. Urban Studies.

More information:

Teemu Kemppainen


+358 40 7400 765

Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science: Urban research

Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies (Urbaria)