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Britain looks to Sweden for flat-pack homes

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Britain looks to Sweden for flat-pack homes
07:30 CEST+02:00
Building has started on a first batch of low-cost, flat-pack homes – a Swedish design to ease the housing crunch – in Britain, which is in the grip of a chronic shortage of affordable housing amid rising prices and immigration.

The homes being constructed in Gateshead, part of the greater Newcastle area in north-east England, are designed to be space-saving, functional and high quality homes within the reach of first-time buyers already living in the area but squeezed out of the soaring property market.

The "BoKlok" concept, which roughly translated means "live smart," was created in 1996 by the Swedish furniture giant IKEA and the construction firm Skanska to combat the lack of affordable housing in their native country.

From 2002, it spread across Scandinavia, where 3,500 homes have already been erected and more than 1,000 new homes are going up each year.

The concept has now spread across the North Sea to Britain, with planning permission secured for Gateshead in March.

Some 225,000 new homes need to be built each year, according to official British figures, but only 160,000-170,000 are actually going up.

Between 2008 and 2011, the government wants to invest eight billion pounds (113 billion kronor, $16 billion) in building affordable homes.

It has undertaken to get 70,000 low-cost homes built per year from now until 2010-2011.

"These Scandinavian-style timber framed properties are for average household incomes of 15,000 to 35,000 pounds ($30,000 to 70,000)," BoKloK UK spokesman Neil Shaefer told AFP.

They will be offered first to people in the Gateshead area, who will have the option to rent or buy. But given the volume of demand -- thousands have applied -- they will be allocated on a lottery basis to those who have registered on the Internet or in an IKEA store.

Building work has just begun in on the first phase of six buildings, comprising 36 one or two-bedroom apartments in total.

A one-bedroom apartment with 46 square metres (500 square feet) of space will cost less than 100,000 pounds. The first residents should move in at the start of 2008.

When finished, the homes contain fully-equipped kitchens and bathrooms, parquet flooring, triple glazing and are well insulated. They are unfurnished but come with 250 pounds worth of IKEA gift vouchers.

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