Land use planning practices in different municipalities and urban regions in Finland vary substantially, as do attitudes towards land ownership and land use policy. Consequently, inter-municipal cooperation in strategic land use planning is often weak, despite central government efforts such as the introduction of the PARAS Act in 2007, which exhorts municipalities in the urban regions to consolidate or cooperate. However, governmental steering has been vague on most sensitive and pragmatic land use policy issues such as planning and policy tools to control dispersed development patterns leading to urban sprawl. This article examines the challenges of consistent steering of land use practices by presenting observations from follow-up studies of five Finnish urban regions, all in the first stage of implementing the PARAS Act. The analysis reveals that mixed messages and defensive routines are preventing effective political debate on core issues. These defences are fostered by the vagueness of central government policy. Since these core issues have not been brought up in the legislation, they are now being tackled - or ignored - at the local level in an unpredictable manner.