Kuninkaankolmio (meaning King's triangle) is a relatively recent area of housing development on the outskirts of Helsinki, Finland's capital city. It contains a mixture of apartment blocks, semi-detached and detached housing, mostly built within the last 50 years, along with some industrial and other workplace sites, and a number of recreational areas. Around 28,000 people live in Kuninkaankolmio, many of whom commute into central Helsinki using the local rail connection. It's a popular area to live so planners are interested in creating more housing stock in the region by infilling some of the open spaces. These planners wanted to find out what local residents thought about the proposed new developments.

Marketta Kyttä of Aalto University in Finland and colleagues devised an online questionnaire to assess what attracted residents to live in Kuninkaankolmio, and whether 'infill developments' posed any concern. The questionnaire used GIS software to enable people to locate where they live and demonstrate the places and services they visited most frequently. "Our main purpose was to understand the everyday mobility patterns within the intermunicipal zone and to study the loyalty that people might show to this zone in their everyday life as well as when considering future moves," said Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé, a member of Kyttä's team.

Until now it has been widely assumed that most people crave more space and are likely to oppose an increase in housing density in their neighbourhood. However, the 1238 responses to the questionnaire suggest otherwise.

"The data showed that people are not interested in fleeing to less-dense areas from within Kuninkaankolmio, as they wish to live in areas corresponding with their current urban density in the future," Schmidt-Thomé told environmentalresearchweb. "It was also obvious that the infill projects currently planned within Kuninkaankolmio represent interesting housing options for the current population and are thus welcomed by many respondents. Densification measures are in the light of the data far less problematic than what one would expect considering existing scientific literature and the public debate in Finland."

Not surprisingly, location was the prime concern for most people when considering where to live. Easy access to transport links, green areas and services all featured highly on people's wish lists. The biggest and highest-density infill projects attracted the most interest, perhaps because they appeared big enough to meet many different needs. The findings are published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

Contrary to popular opinion, this research suggests that urban densification can be an attractive and viable solution if it is planned carefully and has the blessing of current residents. However, the Kuninkaankolmio findings won't necessarily translate to similar suburbs in other cities because the urban density of Kuninkaankolmio is lower than most other international comparisons. "There is maybe more room to manoeuvre than in many other urban regions," said Schmidt-Thomé.

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