• Sweden edition
 
Stockholm's Housing Hell
'Stockholm's like a party with a $500 coat check'
Handshake photo: Shutterstock.

'Stockholm's like a party with a $500 coat check'

Published: 08 May 2014 15:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 May 2014 15:36 GMT+02:00

"I had 13 different apartments in the first ten years I lived here," says Billy McCormac, the head of the Stockholm branch of the Swedish Property Federation (Fastighetsägarna).

"It got to a point where I thought 'Why put the stuff in the drawers any more, I may as well keep it in suitcase'," the US immigrant adds with a wry chuckle.

But the housing crisis is no laughing matter. In Stockholm, renters wait an average of 7.5 years for a "first-hand contract", while in the meantime enduring years living with fewer rights as a sub-letting tenant. The queues and housing shortages have fanned the flames of a thriving black market, on which house hunters pay large sums of cash to skip the official queues.

The situation is a particular headache for people trying to recruit talent from abroad to join their start-up companies. McCormac fears that it will be too tough for Stockholm to produce more companies like Spotify and Klarna if new workers can't find a place to call home.

One man who's no stranger to housing hell is Los Angeles-native Tyler Crowley, known by some as the "start-up whisperer". Crowley, who organizes networking events for tech-interested Stockholmers and has dubbed the city "the tech world's hidden nightclub", tells The Local that Stockholm risks its potential tech success due to the housing situation.

"Stockholm is like a party with a $500 coat check. It's shaping up to be the next super hot start-up centre. All the goods are here. We have the best drinks, the best DJ... we have it all, but if you're not able to participate then what good is it?" he said on Thursday. 

Crowley’s personal experience of the Stockholm housing situation has left him in no doubt that Stockholm is in a class of its own in this regard.

"It's bad. It's stunningly bad. This might be the hardest city in the world to get an apartment," he says. "Someone should commission a report, I think they could actually prove it."

On Thursday morning, Billy McCormac hosted a seminar in central Stockholm tackling the issue. Armed with fresh research from the federation, a trade organization representing the interests of private property owners in Sweden, he interviewed a panel including a Stockholm city councillor, Crowley himself, and a young entrepreneur considering seeking greener pastures in Barcelona.

"When I read Enrico Moretti's The New Geography of Jobs it opened my eyes," McCormac explains. "The people in the first IT bubble said that geography doesn't mean anything - that you could work anywhere. Now its the opposite, geography means everything."

The problem, he says, is that politicians on a local and national level prefer to shun the issue rather than respond, preventing a start-up cluster that cities like Berlin and San Francisco are enjoying.

"We want to show that everyone wins when politics is more responsive. It should be 'what can we do for you to make life easier?'. We are seeing cities that are really quite good at that, like London, where their approach is 'Tell us what you want and we'll make it happen'."

But Stockholm politicians, two of whom were on the scene on Thursday, can't do much more than acknowledge the problem. McCormac said that both city councillor Ulla Hamilton and Maria Östberg Svanelid of the Social Democrats "could have been more emphatic" during the discussion, but he realizes that in election years it's often tough to expect much more than promises.

And with nothing more than promises, he fears that he will hear more tales of people who choose London, Berlin, or San Francisco over Stockholm due to the horror housing stories they've heard.

Tyler Crowley concurs, arguing that Stockholm has a "surprisingly lazy" approach to the tech scene in general, adding that other cities "would do anything" for the resources that Stockholm has in terms of talent.

"I'm obviously very biased, but to me technology is where the future is going. I am not alone with that idea ... the prime minister of the UK agrees with that. Some world leaders agree. It's not a crazy idea that technology is where countries need to be focused going forward," he adds.

He says it would be "sad" if Stockholm didn't address the housing shortage and seize this opportunity, especially when other countries were striving so hard for what Stockholm already has.

“A million-people city is not that big. It shouldn't be that hard," he adds.

Oliver Gee (oliver.gee@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

Neo-Nazi attacks
Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian
Police intervene after neo-Nazis attack an anti-Nazi rally in Kärrtorp, December 2013. Photo: Hampus Andersson/TT

Neo-Nazis cleared of knife attack on Nigerian

A Stockholm court has cleared three neo-Nazis of stabbing a Nigerian man in an unprovoked attack. But two of the men will face jail after they were convicted of racial agitation at a riot. READ  

Julian Assange
Assange court ruling expected on Monday
Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in the UK. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Assange court ruling expected on Monday

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can expect the next court ruling on his case to take place on Monday October 27th in Stockholm. READ  

Politics
Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at an EU summit in Brussels this week. Photo: TT

Sweden to get EU 'Christmas present'

Sweden is set to get 1.2 billion kronor ($168 million) back from the EU on December 1st, according to leaked EU documents which suggest that other European countries will have to make large top-up payments this year. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

991
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN