Participation of second home owners and permanent residents in local decision making: the case of a rural village in Finland
In Finland, there are almost 500,000 second homes and in some areas the number of second home owners exceeds that of permanent residents. Currently, second home owners are also spending more time in their second homes. If second home owners are not permanent residents, administration may exclude them from local institutions, and treat second home owners as only partial members of the community. It has been stated that municipal decision making and the role of the municipality as an actor in the local community should be broadened in order to strengthen democracy and the participation of its residents as a core of municipal self-administration. Hence, participating in communal decision making is mainly possible only for permanent residents. The issue is whether it is possible to change this situation via the municipalities’ own reforms and state regulations. New municipal administration experiments have recently emerged in Finland. Here we study how the new local administrative model, the Communal District Committee, has affected local participation and local governance in a rural areas by exploring second home owners’ opportunities to participate in local decision making and development processes. The data consists of documents, focus group discussions and a questionnaire. We used qualitative and quantitative methods in the data analysis. We found, on one hand, that permanent residents of villages recognise second home owners’ hesitation to participate in local issues requiring planning and decision making. On the other hand, local-level communal decision making does not promote the participation of second home residents. On the basis of the findings of the study, we suggest that the municipal authorities should recognise the existence and importance of second home owners in the area, acknowledge them better in municipal plans and strategies, and offer them more resources and means to participate.
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