Saami settlements range in size and permanence, since part of the population is seasonally nomadic. More permanent Villages and towns range from a few families to a few thousand individuals. In the latter case, Saami inhabitants may be in the minority, being interspersed with members of the dominant culture, some of very recent entry. Both encampments and settlements are predicated on local resource utilization, and are often along waterways affording access by boat in summer and by sled and snowmobile on winter ice. Contemporary transportation relaxes these constraints on settlement, at the same time as social conventions such as schooling and consumer habits impose other demands and opportunities leading to centralization. In the literature, occasionally "Village" refers to a reindeer-herding, an administrative, or a Territorial unit, rather than to a settlement per se.
Various forms of permanent and portable housing exist, often juxtaposed in the same settlement or even on the same household plot. Earlier types of construction include tents, sod huts, and frame dwellings, and these persist as homes (or are diverted to other purposes such as storage of food and equipment, smoking of meat and fish, or work stations). Contemporary homes are built to national standards, with central heating and running water; social life centers on the kitchen. Particularly in the more mobile reindeer-breeding segment of the population, some families manage more than one permanent dwelling and numerous portable ones. The tents and huts are round, organized around a central, usually open, fire. Any bare ground will be covered first with birch twigs and then by reindeer hides. Small items such as cooking utensils are stored in one or more chests opposite the entry.