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How do I find student housing in Sweden?

Ask The Local: Every week we will be answering readers' questions about Sweden. This week, Peter from Hamburg wants to know how he can find student housing in Sweden.

I’m arriving in Lund in a couple of weeks, where I am going to be studying as an undergraduate, and I don’t have any accommodation sorted. What’s the deal with student housing in Sweden?

Peter, Hamburg, Germany

Arriving in Sweden as an international student without having accommodation is not unusual. In the student towns, Lund and Uppsala, as well as Sweden’s big cities Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, demand for rental properties greatly exceeds supply.

Finding a room is easy enough for students on exchanges such as the Erasmus programme. The university makes rooms available these students. But many universities do not guarantee housing for Masters or PhD students or for normal undergraduates.

There are several opportunities to find housing as an international student in Sweden. The easiest and quickest way is to contact the International Housing Office, if such an institution exists, as it does for instance in Lund.

In Uppsala the student union runs the ‘Bostadsjouren’ database. This contains ads for rooms and apartments close to the university. These are usually furnished and are let out as sublets (‘andra hand’). An advantage for international students is that these rooms are not in a queue system, in contrast to most Swedish housing companies.

In Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö your first port of call should be the student housing companies. But because of high demand the student housing companies will almost always place you in a queue. Signing up to these as early as possible will give you the best chance of finding a place: the longer you have been in the queue, the higher your chance of finding a student apartment. You can join the queue via the companies’ websites.

In Lund and Uppsala you might be able to live at a ‘nation’.

Nations are historic student organisations, sometimes focused on special interests like politics or music. Each is named after a Swedish city or county. Every nation has a bar or a restaurant and offers housing to some of its members.

The only precondition for living at a nation is being active there, which means for instance working at the bar or volunteering at events. Both Lund and Uppsala have more than ten nations.

Many Swedes – students and non-students – use the websites www.blocket.se and www.bopoolen.se to find rental properties, but as an international student this is probably the most difficult way. Many classified ads are only in Swedish and you have to contact the landlord immediately to have a chance of bagging a room, especially in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Some accommodation is snapped up after a few minutes. Almost all rental accommodation advertised on these sites is sublet housing; ‘first hand’ contracts, under which tenants have a permanent right to remain, are almost never found through these advertisements.

There are basically three types of housing for students in Sweden. To hire a room on a corridor in a student dorm is most popular, as this helps students meet new people (and secure invitations to the best parties).

You can also hire an apartment with a kitchenette or a room in shared accommodation, although this is very rare in Sweden.

Student accommodation is generally of a high standard in Sweden. Most student rooms have a private bathroom and internet access.

However, you should accept that you might not find your dream room or apartment in the beginning, but there often is the possibility to move in the middle of the month, when pressure on student accommodation drops.

Even if you have to stay at a hostel first it can be a lot of fun since they are crowded with other ‘homeless’ students and therefore it is easy to meet new people. After a couple of days everybody usually finds proper accommodation.

Useful links:

Lund

:

: Lund University’s International Housing Office

List of Lund University nations:

Uppsala

General information about housing in Uppsala

Student union housing guide

Student union housing guide

Guide to Bostadsjouren in Uppsala

List of Uppsala University Nations

Gothenburg

General information

Homepage of SGS Studentbostäder student housing company

Stockholm

Student housing companies

Nationwide

Online small ad services:

www.blocket.se

www.bopoolen.se

Do you have a question about the practicalities of living in Sweden? Then drop us a line at [email protected]

Mareike Neumann

For members

OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Sweden’s ‘historic investment’ has failed to solve the housing crisis

Five years after Sweden's government promised to solve the country's housing crisis with a "historic investment", things are as bad as ever, David Crouch argues. Radical action is needed.

OPINION: Sweden's 'historic investment' has failed to solve the housing crisis

Forced to move house 20 times in the past eight years, Maria’s situation was desperate. She and her daughter had arrived in Stockholm from Latin America in search of a better life. She found work, no problem – but housing was impossible.

“Sometimes I was paying 12,000kr in rent and it was very hard because I only had 15,000kr in monthly salary,” says Maria (not her real name). So she took a high-interest loan of 240,000kr and tried to bribe someone in the Housing Agency to get to the front of the queue for affordable housing.

But she was caught. Her fate is unknown. And she didn’t even get an apartment.

This recent story, in the excellent newspaper of the Tenants’ Association, sums up the problems facing people who move here to work. The market for rental accommodation is tight as a drum. Finding a home means competing with Swedes, but with all the disadvantages of being an outsider. So people find themselves pushed into short-term, insecure rental contracts at inflated prices.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Five years ago this month, the government announced a “historic investment in housing”, including subsidies for construction companies, easing restrictions on building permits, and making more land available.

The housing situation at the time was grim. Spotify had threatened to leave Sweden if things didn’t improve – how could the company attract skilled young people to a city where there was nowhere for them to live? More than half Stockholm’s population – 600,000 people – were in the queue for a coveted rental apartment, because strict regulation meant these rents were low. But it took as long as 20 years to get to the front of that queue.

The result was a thriving rental property black market, with large bribes changing hands. Many tenants exploited the situation by sub-letting their homes, or parts of them. “It is almost impossible for immigrants and new arrivals to penetrate this market – it is all about who you know and how much money you have,” said Billy McCormac, head of the Fastighetsägarna property association, in 2015.

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So what has been the outcome of the grand promises the government made five years ago? House-building at the time was already rising steadily, and it has continued to do so. Look around you in the big cities and you will see that new apartment blocks have sprung up here and there.

But we shouldn’t go only on appearances. To understand the reality, we need to look at some numbers.

The gap between demand for housing and the existing housing stock has indeed started to shrink. “As housing construction has gradually increased and population growth has begun to slow down, the gap has decreased since 2017,” Stockholm’s Housing Agency noted in December.

The Agency has broken records four years in a row for the number of rental homes it has provided. The proportion of young adults living independently has also increased somewhat, the Tenants’ Association found, probably due to the pace of construction.

But this smidgen of good news is outweighed by an avalanche of bad.

The average queuing time in 2021 for a Stockholm apartment was more than 9 years; for somewhere in the city centre you have to wait 18 years. Only 936 homes came with a waiting time of less than one year. More than three-quarters of a million people are now registered in the queue for housing – a big increase on five years ago.

The rate at which the housing shortage is shrinking is nowhere near fast enough to alleviate the huge accumulated demand.

Assuming that the current pace of construction can be maintained, it will be the end of this decade before any significant dent is made in the deficit of homes, according to Boverket – the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning. The current rate of construction is “only marginally more than the long-term need”, it says.

The challenge is even greater when it comes to producing affordable housing, Boverket says, especially for the young and those entering the housing market for the first time. Almost one in four young Swedes up to the age of 27 are forced to live at home – the second-highest figure since the measurements began.

There are already signs that housing construction is actually slowing down, owing to higher building material prices, rising interest rates and an incipient labour shortage. Construction prices rose by more than 8 percent last year, and there is concern in the industry that war in Ukraine will further affect costs, in turn slowing the pace of building.

There is another fly in the ointment, a consequence of the collapse of Sweden’s governing coalition in November. The new, minority administration was forced to adopt the opposition’s budget, which halted investment subsidies for house building, throwing the construction industry into confusion.

In short, the “Swedish model” for providing people with a roof over their heads is failing. The folkhemmet, or “people’s home”, has not enough homes for its people.

Swedes themselves understand this: in a survey last month, nine out of ten voters said they thought that politicians did not take the housing shortage seriously.

We have waited too long. It is time for fresh thinking and radical action to solve the housing crisis.

David Crouch is the author of Almost Perfekt: How Sweden Works and What Can We Learn From It. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University

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