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Homeless single mothers: Child allowance counts towards rent

Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius · 26 Apr 2009, 11:00

Published: 26 Apr 2009 11:00 GMT+02:00

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Lynessa Hansson will try again to secure a stable and permanent home for herself and two young daughters on Monday April 27th. She is invited to a viewing of a rental apartment in the new Stockholm residential neighborhood of Hammarby Sjöstad.

The new opportunity comes none too soon as her current sub-let will run out on May 31st. If the one-bedroom apartment suits her little family’s needs, Lynessa is ready to sign a lease. The chance the apartment will be hers is still relatively small since 27 interested hopefuls must decline their opportunity to sign first. Lynessa is 28th on the list.

While it’s a long shot, it’s not impossible. In fact, a similar long shot nearly paid off just a few months ago. However, the victory was short lived when Lynessa’s income was deemed insufficient for the monthly rent. This came as a surprise to Lynessa.

“I was sure I would make the cut off when I added up my total income according to the general information.”

Currently she pays about the same in rent as the new apartment would have cost. She adds, “I even save about 4,000kr per month as well.”

According to the information on the Stockholms Stads Bostadsförmedlingen website (the public rental agency which manages the waiting list and the list of available rental units) the three largest Stockholm rental companies use the same minimum income determination. That is defined as: “The total sum of gross income including allowances shall equal three times the rent for the unit in question.”

The description goes on to clarify that “income” is defined as, “Salary, student grants, welfare allowances, housing allowance, child support payments, unemployment allowances or similar.” With this description Lynessa took for granted that the child allowance was included. She was wrong, or so said the rental company which owned the apartment block, Stockholmshem.

Oddly, Stockholmshem excluded the child allowance (barnbidrag) in their calculation.. The reason, according to Birgitta Gradin, the person responsible for the income calculations at Stockholmshem:

”We had chosen in our work routines to only include allowances which are housing related and therefore the child allowance was not included.” Without the child allowance in the calculation, Lynessa’s income was just under the cut off calculation for the 8,800 kronor monthly rent. She got passed over and the apartment went to someone else.

Lynessa’s rejection came to the attention of the media as a result. Due to her unfortunate situation, Stockholmshem quickly revised its policy. Björn Ljung (Lib), chairman of Stockholmshem, told The Local that upon hearing of Lynessa’s case he reacted directly.

“I thought this policy was quite strange as this is one of the most stable incomes anyone can have. I called immediately and said that we have to change the policy right away.”

While Ljung was quite sympathetic to Lynessa Hansson’s plight he felt there was nothing Stockholmshem could do to rectify the injustice since the policy dismissing the child allowance was in place at the time Lynessa was rejected.

He offered optimistically: “From now on she’s going to be accepted as a tenant by all three of the Stockholm rental companies [if they need to calculate in the child allowance.]”

Despite the friendly optimism expressed by Björn Ljung and the change in work routines, Stockholmshem will not publish for public availability the actual allowances included or excluded in the qualification calculation. Gradin insists that all 12 people responsible for calculating incomes have been informed of the procedural change.

“We have regular department meetings and job training along with daily meetings with colleagues. When we make changes [to procedures] everyone is informed.”

The Local checked in with the other companies to hear how Lynessa’s case has affected their income calculation policies and routines.

Another of the three giants, Familjbostäder, confirmed that they now include child allowance in the income calculation as a matter of course. Mia Wester Carlsson, the information officer at Familjbostäder, investigated the transparency of the policy as a result of The Local's probe and was happy to report that clear information will now be available as part of the firm's FAQ page.

Carlsson added, “It’s important for this information to be available to our customers.” She said a memo would also be distributed internally to be sure all agents who evaluate a potential tenant’s income are fully apprised of the policy change.

The apartment Lynessa Hansson is hopeful to get this Monday is owned by Svenska Bostäder. According to their spokesperson, Fredrik Jynell, “We have accepted child allowance [as income] for a long time.”

Story continues below…

The monthly rent for this particular unit is 8,200kr per month. Without the child allowance income included in the calculation, Lynessa would be under the minimal income by about 200kr per month. When asked specifically about this unit Jynell said definitively, “If she is the tenant who will be offered the apartment we will calculate in the child allowance amount.”

If any of the 27 people ahead of Lynessa on the list indicate they would like the apartment, she is back to square one still in search of a permanent home for her young daughters.

“It would be nice to have [permanent housing] secured before my older child starts school this autumn.”

Regardless of this Monday’s result, it is thanks to Lynessa Hansson that many other parents applying for apartments will benefit from the new clarity in the definition of which allowances are included in the income calculation.

It’s now official: child allowance is counted as part of an individual’s total income. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Lynessa and her girls.

Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:57 April 28, 2009 by Thebinary1
This is the actual kind of detailed reporting that makes good reading since the information is beneficial to everybody. Any chance Elizabeth Dacey-Fondelius would be a permanent figure on TheLocal - given that the other independent reports are totally lame compared to this one.
00:03 April 30, 2009 by double concerto
So many homeless Swedish people in Sweden, yet your government sees fit to continue flooding the country with immigrants from the third world who promptly burn their neighbourhood down and stone the police and other public services. Something seriously wrong with your values.
01:07 April 30, 2009 by 007
it seems the approval system has continued to be under attack and another change in policy has taken place. i heard that another single mother was denied a place because her references were based on being a lodger-tenant which didn't cut the mustard.

now that silly rule has been removed too. just goes to show it takes a few gutsy people to stand up and protest.

i wonder what happened with this woman's flat?
00:46 May 3, 2009 by Coalbanks
Thebinary1 - I agree with your sentiments about this reporter/article.

double concerto - So where do you live that is so much better?

007 - Stand Up For Your Rights, eh?

With 27 people ahead of her for the flat she might get one by the time her kid graduates never mind enters school, no?
13:19 May 3, 2009 by kevin oconnor
Maybe she should move here to waterford ireland as 8200 kronar works out to 768 euro which is steep for a one bed unit you would be getting a 3 bed house here for that money I rent and pay 500 for a two room wonder and even that seems extortion to me !!!
14:51 May 3, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Probably some 'murkan who thinks he knows something about/has got anything to do with Sweden just because his grandfather was Swedish...
15:36 May 3, 2009 by 7
if you don't, no one else is likely to.
15:59 May 3, 2009 by Joemath
So, the next question is whether or not you can build more public housing.

In addition, new immigrants may need help with assimilation and the

acquisition of language skills. I believe that Swedish culture itself

should be taught to new immigrants to facilitate the process of

assimilation into the larger society itself.

Joseph S. Maresca
17:31 May 3, 2009 by 7
the political parties might want to take that up in the political platforms

excellent idea. perhaps a program of language and cultural considerations for immigrants should be created. it could be called swedish for immigrants or SFI for short.

17:53 May 3, 2009 by Puffin

Given the rate at which the current government is selling the public housing stock as private appartments
21:52 May 3, 2009 by 7
it's irrelevant when regardless of whether the apartments are cooperatives or rentals, there are too few for the demand.
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