5,000 rental apartments in Stockholm “lost” each year

It is notoriously difficult to find an apartment to rent in Stockholm - and though they will come as no comfort to families at the bottom of a five-year waiting list, figures released this week by the city council's Office of Research and Statistics showed why.

Every year, 5,000 apartments owned by private landlords are being sold to tenants in Stockholm, leading to a dramatic shrinking of the city’s rental market.

Svenska Dagbladet showed that since a law designed to reverse this trend was passed in April 2002, only 954 council-owned apartments have been put for sale. Before the law, 11,000 apartments were put for sale in a period of 18 months.

But the law has done nothing to stop private sales and that, according to the company Property Owners Stockholm, is worrying.

“The transformation of private rent apartments has kept up a high pace for several years,” said the company’s lawyer, Tore Ljunqvist.

“5,000 apartments disappear every year like this and there are no signs of it slowing down. The transformation, especially in the outskirts of Stockholm and in Söder is increasing rapidly.”

Ljunqvist told SvD that the property industry needs “more entrepreneurial spirit and greater belief in the future”, while Hyresgästförening, the rental association, said that the solution was to increase the supply by building more new apartments.

“When the demand for properties decreases then it will also become less attractive to transform rentals into tenant-ownership,” said Peder Palmstierna, head of information for Hyresgästförening. “You have to remember that increasing prices until now have made properties in Stockholm a good business.”

But, according to the Office of Research and Statistics, the number of new constructions is not on the rise. In the third quarter this year, only 683 new constructions were started, compared to 1143 in the year’s second quarter.

The numbers certainly don’t seem to add up. According to SvD, there are over 100,000 people in line to get an apartment in Stockholm and usually a steady job and a certain yearly income are pre-requisites.

While Wednesday’s SvD was worrying about the lack of housing for Stockholm’s residents in general, the same day’s Dagens Nyheter focused on 327 children in the city who do not have a home. They usually end up in temporary housing, with family or friends.

“Three out of four parents of these children come from a country outside EU,” stated Kjell Ove Johansson, administrator at the Social Services organisation.

DN met Hussein, 20, who lives with his mother and two younger sisters – without an official contract – in a two room apartment in Skärholmen. They will have to move out by the New Year.

“The worst is the uncertainty and the family seems to have lost all motivation. Hussein has trouble sleeping at night, can’t look for a job and the family still hasn’t unpacked,” said the paper.

“I don’t even want to open the boxes. I feel safer if I don’t unpack since we will soon be moving again,” said Hussein to DN’s journalist, who was denied a visit to the apartment.

The Social Services gave Hussein’s family an allowance for the rent, but it was not enough and therefore the family had to move to a cheaper apartment. A contract for an apartment is out of the question since the family is in debt.

According to DN, there are currently 182 families and 327 children in a similar situation, mostly in areas such as Kista, Hässelby, Vällingby and Vantör, where many homeless families move in and out of temporary apartments, which “work like hotels”.

“Children need a good place to live to be able to define their world,” said Örjan Sandin, head of department for Individual and Family Unit in Kista. “The worst is when the parents are not able to say when their living situation will improve.”

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet

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