Charity board “took apartments meant for the poor”

Last week's reports of the shrinking rental property market - caused by increasing numbers of rented apartments being sold to private buyers - will have struck a chord with the estimated 100,000 people queuing for an apartment in Stockholm.

This week it got personal. Monday’s Dagens Nyheter uncovered a housing charity whose apartments, meant for the poor, have been let to “union leaders, politicians, board members and their children”. Whoops.

The charter of the Anna Johansson-Visborg Trust, which owns 420 rental apartments in five properties around Stockholm, stipulates that they are to be used by “needy single people or families”. But DN’s own investigation revealed that the charity has been a back-scratching haven centred around the chairwoman and prominent union member, Agneta Johansson.

She led the organisation for nine years, until May. The paper alleged that during that time Johansson’s son was given a loan of 10,000 crowns by the charity and employed as a cleaner, her daughter was given a grant of 5,000 crowns and employed in the office, and another relative was given a home computer package and digital camera.

But DN reserved its sternest indignation for the allegation that the charity’s board had abused their responsibility for allocating apartments – and taken all the best views for themselves.

Agneta Johansson “gave herself her current apartment…[which] has a wonderful view from one of the balconies”, while from the balcony of the former vice-chairman’s place you can “see for miles and miles”. Not to be outdone, the charity’s financial advisor, Margareta Sjöstrand, got a two floor apartment in Kungsholmen.

“The view is enchanting,” confirmed DN, scarcely concealing its seething jealousy.

Sjöstrand wouldn’t discuss how she came to be living in the apartment.

“You’ll have to ask the board,” she said. So DN did.

Wolmar Sjöström, the trust’s accountant, blamed the apartments.

“It has been hard to rent out the one room places,” he said. “It’s difficult to stick to the word of the charter.”

But that excuse carried no weight with Annika Oldenburg from Stockholm council’s charity department.

“There are many homeless women today,” she said. “So that doesn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering why you can’t find an apartment to rent in Gothenburg it’s because, like in Stockholm, they’re all being sold to private owners. The rental market is apparently shrinking by over 1,500 apartments a year, and it’s worst in the centre of the city.

Anders Jarud, the head of commerce at the Gothenburg Property Owners organisation, told Göteborgs-Posten that he was concerned about the future of private letting.

“The development we’ve seen in Stockholm over the last few years has now come to Gothenburg,” he said. “It’s up to the politicians to decide whether or not they still want private landlords in central Gothenburg.”

Whatever’s fuelling the rush to buy properties in Stockholm and Gothenburg, it’s not the expectation of making a quick profit.

According to figures released by the bank SEB on Monday, the percentage of people who believe property prices will rise next year has fallen to 41% – down from 60% just two months ago.

“House prices have risen strongly for a long while. At the same time, many are saying that households should prepare themselves for higher interest rates next year. Both of these factors contribute to dampened enthusiasm,” said SEB’s Gunilla Nyström.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Göteborgs Posten, Dagens Industri

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