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Two year wait for Stockholm flat: report

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 8 Feb 2010, 11:13

Published: 08 Feb 2010 11:13 GMT+01:00

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"We have known for a long time that the waiting time for a rental apartment in Stockholm is longer than in the rest of Europe. But that the difference was this great surprised even us," said Mia Enayatollah at the Swedish Property Federation (Fastighetsägarna), which has conducted the survey.

The federation compared the waiting lists and number of vacant apartments for rent in eight European cities of an equivalent size to Stockholm.

In Stockholm the average prospective tenant has to search for two years to put pen to paper on a rental contract. In six of the cities studied in the comparison there was no wait at all, and in the seventh, Amsterdam, the search took one to five weeks.

"This is a result of the fact that in Stockholm we have had a politically managed market for rental apartments for decades," said Mia Enayatollah.

The survey also shows that neither long waits nor a strict political regulatory system bring rewards in the way of lower rents.

The survey in fact shows that Berlin, where an apartment can be found without delay, enjoys the lowest rents of the eight cities studied.

Furthermore Brussels, Amsterdam and Madrid all have apartments available, with little or no wait, at rental levels similar or only slightly higher than Stockholm, the only city in the comparison with a general rent control system in place.

The survey looks at the market for rental apartments in Stockholm, Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Brussels, Amsterdam, Madrid and Berlin. The wait times were compiled with statistics for 2009 and rents were compared according to the Bloomberg Ikea Billy bookshelf index.

The Local spoke to Anna Wennerstrand at the Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen) on Monday who argued that regulated rents have nothing to do with the problem.

"The short answer is that too few apartments are built. It is quite a particular market that is difficult to compare."

When asked what should be done about Stockholm's problems, Wennerstrand replied:

Story continues below…

"The government needs to offer more support. Their policies favour the construction of tenant-owner apartments and houses."

As all longer-term visitors to Stockholm are acutely aware, there exists an informal "second-hand" rental market that allows those in possession of rental contracts, and owners of tenant-owner (bostadsrätt) apartments and houses, to sublet their homes.

This market is not directly controlled but is subject to the same regulations with regard to rents that apply to the regular rental market. In reality rents are often much higher in reflection of the relatively high costs paid for the properties.

Furthermore, "first-hand" rental contracts often change hands for significant sums of money.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:46 February 8, 2010 by peropaco
That's because there is the mafia involved and everyone is trying to make a buck. Today, owning a firsthand contract is like gold. You can sell that on the market for as much as €50.000 euros
12:49 February 8, 2010 by hipersons1
"The survey also shows that neither long waits and a strict political regulatory system do not bring rewards in the way of lower rents."

should read ...

"The survey also shows that neither long waits nor a strict political regulatory system brings rewards in the way of lower rents."
12:51 February 8, 2010 by davo339
My question is what are they going to do about it? its insane having to wait this amount of time for a place to live OR fork over loads of cash...
12:55 February 8, 2010 by Alex Coman
A big reason for the crisis in Spain was the building of homes (houses/apartments) with almost nobody needing them. So I understand Sweden has no building crisis...
13:01 February 8, 2010 by Twiceshy
Buy instead of renting.

If you are going in Stockholm for a short period so that it doesn't make sense to buy, then I guess your only option is to live in the suburbs.
13:02 February 8, 2010 by krattan
Interesting survey. I also find the waiting time in Stockholm astounding. Although a similar survey which also takes the standard of living into consideration would be equally interesting since the prices are also mentioned.

In Oslo for example there's a wild array of standards ranging from very bad without shower or bathing abilities in the flat to of course very good newly built housing. I've also an acquaintance in Berlin who lives in an apartment without hot tap water. To my knowledge these types of cheap low standard apartments does not exist any more in Stockholm so just comparing overall prices doesn't tell the whole story.
13:03 February 8, 2010 by Craptastical
Now let's just see what all those anti-market-price people will dream up to counter this. The only thing I've seen from them is spreading fear that all of a sudden rents will skyrocket.
13:17 February 8, 2010 by EtoileBrilliant
The OECD have been pointing this out for years. Landlords need to be able to apply market based rents otherwise rental apartments become a lottery of "haves and have nots"
13:46 February 8, 2010 by Beavis
Is this the waiting list for CENREAL Stockholkm?

I doubt the outer suburbs have such long waiting lists.
13:56 February 8, 2010 by kaze
I'm surprised at how hte others can be so quick. My experience from Amsterdam says different.
14:00 February 8, 2010 by StockholmSam
This is one of the primary reasons I am looking to leave Stockholm. I am an American with excellent work experience, professional knowledge, and educational background (two masters degrees) and while finding work has been troublesome at best, finding an apartment has been an unbelievable nightmare. I refuse to wait 10 years to get close to the area that I would be able to afford if market forces were permitted to establish fair market prices for apartments.

Also, this is the last bastion of segregation in Sweden. They preach egalitarian values and integration, but this apartment queue is obviously a way to keep immigrants out of the "good" areas for as long as possible. It reeks of class system society and frankly, Stockholm would attract more international talent if the city did not make it so difficult to set up a life here. The longer they create barriers that perpetuate inequalities, the greater the liklihood of social tensions increasing and boiling over (see Rosengård).
14:06 February 8, 2010 by eZee.se
Tell me about it.. been "in queue" since mid 2004 for a first hand contract.. and still have a looong way to go.

@peropaco, i do believe you are exaggerating just a weee bit, I think 500000kr for a first hand contract would be rather the exception than the rule even if you are talking heart of the city. From what i hear its between 100k to 200k (although my information could be wrong as i have very little idea about this subject.) . Which parts of town were you talking about and what kind of apartments? (I.e 2 rooms, 3rooms? more?)
14:06 February 8, 2010 by Craptastical
@Beavis The 20+ year wait for an apartment inside the city is for the older apartments with lower rent. It's still a couple years wait (usually 2+ years) for the more expensive new production apartments in the city too (I know, I'm still trying to get into anything inside the city). Either way it's too damn long to have to wait.

If you're curious you can visit Bostadsförmedlings website and look at their statistics.
14:18 February 8, 2010 by Craptastical
I forgot to mention that the whole bytesrätt thing is one of the major poblems with the queue system as well. Once an apartment is rented inside the city, that person usually has the right to trade contracts with someone else for another apartment. So essentially once an apartment is hired from the queue don't expect to see it in the queue again during your lifetime.

Get rid of that right and the system no longer favors people already in an apartment. Instead it finally becomes fair.
14:21 February 8, 2010 by skatty
I can't get it; Stockholm has high rate of unemployment, the city itself is a collection of smaller communities connected to each others (except downtown the rest of the city is a collection of villages), it's not as beautiful as many metropolitan capitals in Europe, many apartments are ugly old concrete buildings, entertainments are expensive, and people are like other places in Sweden (cold and detached), why somebody should wait 20 years to get an apartment in Stockholm, I just don't get it!
14:28 February 8, 2010 by StockholmSam
@Skatty : That is the *beautiful mystery* of Sweden!
14:35 February 8, 2010 by Craptastical
I forgot to mention that the whole bytesrätt thing is one of the major poblems with the queue system. Once an apartment is rented inside the city, that person usually has the right to trade contracts with someone else for another apartment. So essentially once an apartment is hired from the queue don't expect to see it in the queue again during your lifetime.

Get rid of that right and the system no longer favors people already renting an apartment.

Or better yet, completely do away with the queue system and make the building owners _compete_ for new tenants instead of the reverse. Landlords raised the rent? People move out. Some apartments will be empty. Landlords don't upgrade anything in the apartment for 10+ years? Your tenants search for something nicer. You raise the rent for no good reason? Same deal, landlords lose tenants.
14:39 February 8, 2010 by Luckystrike
Ïf you are willing to live 5 to 10 minutes travel time outside the city centre, there are many places available. I do and it's great! Not for everybody i guess.

I've also always thought that only people actually working in the city should be allowed to live in the city. Old folk 60+, retired and unemployed should be asked to relocate outside the city areas. That will free up a huge amount of space.
14:51 February 8, 2010 by Craptastical

I don't think there should be restrictions on anyone living in the city, including a queue that's impossible for some to wait in.

Come to think of it, there have probably been people in the queue for so long that they died before they could get an apartment. Grr, thinking about this just makes me more and more angry.
14:55 February 8, 2010 by BrittInSweden
What is this based on private landlords or are these government waiting lists? I found my current apartment on Norrmalm in under a month with a private landlord.
15:12 February 8, 2010 by Craptastical

Can you explain how you did this for the benefit of us poor souls stuck in the giant I'll-be-dead-before-I-find-an-apartment queue?
15:28 February 8, 2010 by davo339
@Luckystrike I have been waiting in queue for 2.5 years in MULTIPLE queues and most are outside of the city. Sollentunahem, Vasbyhem etc. and im still not really any closer to getting an apartment than when i signed up. I NEED to find a place badly. ive been living with my mother-in-law since i arrived and its getting to be a crap situation living there. I just cant seem to find a place!
15:59 February 8, 2010 by Beavis
Bit odd, are you being too picky?? Was in the Vasbyhem Q myself for just less that a year and had a pick of a fair few places.

I hear about people queueing 20 years to live right in the city centre..daft.

Apartments are very cheap to buy right outside the centre. around here (20 minutes outside the city) its just less than a million kr for 2 bed.. the same in Dublin wouldnt buy you a cardboard box an hour outside the city.
16:16 February 8, 2010 by CarlBlack
Anna Wennerstrand's arguments are nonsense. It is clear that if apartment owners were allowed to rent for market prices, they would build more houses meant for renting. If they cannot, they have no reason to build it, and that's exactly why there are too few apartments, what she at least manages to notice. Free market could fix the current demand/supply disproportion.
16:48 February 8, 2010 by mastersamuel
@ Beavis

Too right! I had a tough time at first like anybody finding a place but when I finally got a room 15 minutes outside the centre I was amazed to find how big the room is for the moderate rent and how well all the facilities functioned and how much storage space I had. Also most of the apartment blocks are very well catered for convenience ie. never too far from a shop and of course a washroom.

In Dublin I paid millions of pounds rent to a dodgy landlord to live in a box room on Meath street where I felt like I was possibly gonna get killed everytime I walked home after dark. Dublin is nice for a weekend, but I can't stress how little I miss that city!

I also think the sort of 'word of mouth' way of getting a place is a little more about tradition and old time family values than anything to do with keeping immigrants out of the city centre, nonetheless I can't argue that the wait for a place right bang in the centre isn't ridiculous. Ultimately I think the Swedish system is in many ways very refreshing coming from Ireland, but probably vice versa as well.
19:37 February 8, 2010 by conboy
Beavis you did not spend million pounds on anything other than a substantial jug of exaggeration exhorbitant rents in Ireland in recent years reached the levels of lunacy alright but millions? come on pal unless you struck a secret oil well in the basement ...
20:04 February 8, 2010 by peropaco

sorry for late reply. That was the price someone asked me for a 70sq in Gamla Stan right across from Bistro Ruby back in 2005; and 360.000 Kronor for 85sq near Mosebacke. I ended up buying a flat. I figured if I could fork up that dough, I may as well just buy.
20:10 February 8, 2010 by moaca
I dont believe this survey. As if you can get an appartment (with the same standard) in either Amsterdam or London. I have lived in both Holland and UK and no way you can rent something that fast. Only if you are willing to pay extordinant amounts of money. And then you still have to wait very long. Besides, the survey states "similar sized city"? I mean, Stockholm is the capitol of Sweden, surely you have to compare to other european capitols? At least you can rent appartments from certain organisations, governmental or not. Here in the UK your choice to get something fast is to go private and pay loads of money. Holland has like Sweden very long waiting lists for renting properties. THis due to the fact that more and more rental properties are being sold of. The rental market is therefore getting smaller and smaller, with more and more people seeking for a place to live. At least you get in general a decent appartment when renting in Sweden, a reasonable appartment when renting in Holland and a piece of sh*t when renting in the UK. Unless you are willing to pay over 1000 pound a month. I know, I have been in all positions in all 3 countries. Go out of Stockholm and there are loads and loads of appartments that you can enter within a week. But not the capitol. Which is no different then any other capitol in the world!
20:23 February 8, 2010 by diegoveggie
thank the communists for that
20:37 February 8, 2010 by bubblan88
Berlin is in no way comparable to Stockholm, they need to look at Munich or Frankfurt for that. Its very old news but Berlin is the cheapest capital in Western Europe if not even

all Europe....
20:37 February 8, 2010 by Beavis
@conboy ..what you on about? Price of a 2 bed in Upplands Väsby is 900,000kr (90,000 euro roughly) Thats 20 minutes outside the city and 10 to Arlanda.

Ballymun Dublin 20 minutes outside city and 10 minutes from the airport. 2 bed at current deflated prices 2.5 million kr 250,000 euro)

Thats is the price TODAY. (It wold have been 30% higher 2 years ago)
20:42 February 8, 2010 by wxman
Socialist progressive liberalism at it's best! This should be a teachable point in all economics classes at every university (it won't be though). We have the same problem in San Fransisco and NYC. It's all about rent control. It keeps the rent of those who are already renting, and have been for some time, at a very low cost. But with a freeze on rents, this discourages the contruction of new apartments. In other words, these social engineers destroy the free market supply & demand concept which impoverishes and inconveniences everyone whiloe also depriving them of their product choices at cometative prices. But then, what would you expect from the anti-freedom and anti-true progress fascists.
21:03 February 8, 2010 by DAVID T
@Beavis ....Price of a 2 bed in Upplands Väsby is 900,000kr PLUS anything up to 7000 sek a month in bostads rent
21:19 February 8, 2010 by Mib
How to fix? Build lots more homes for rental. Who will build? Developers.....no...rent limits give no incentive, especially if land is expensive. Government....no...they have other higher priorities.

So, you either buy a place, buy a 1st hand contract, which I believe is not legal...please correct me.......WAIT!!! or don't come to Stockholm etc.

You have to allow market forces to be applied.....but with controls in place so that people can't exploit the system ie. own more than 2 properties, have protection for KEY workers ie. police, nurses etc. allow apartment owners to rent their place out... for all buildings, not just new ones.
21:50 February 8, 2010 by Beavis
@ David T.. there is also maintenance for the one in Dublin (similar amount)

The 2 bed apartments in Väsby have a bostads of 2900kr per month which includes your apartment heating, its 6000kr rent for the same place from Väsbyhem as a rental, so as an owner your paying about 1000kr less with the mortgage and bostads
22:53 February 8, 2010 by Jon in KC
Wow, it would suck to be looking for an Apartment in Sweden. As to rent control in the Americas, maybe in NYC and San Francisco, but luckily here in the Mid-West things are more rational. We looked for an apartment for about 2 weeks, and that was just to pick which one we wanted. We settled on one and paid the money on October 30th and moved in on November 3rd. We got a nice 2 bedroom with a laundry room off the bathroom, and all the appliances. It's 900sqft. And I pay about $850(6300kr) a month for it. I guess we are spoiled in America. But even without rent control, the free market helped us out, when I first rented the apartment I was paying about $950(7059kr) a month, but with the downturn in the economy the rent dropped to keep people from moving out. Also, I am about 2 km from my job, stores, and entertainment. It is in the suburbs, but that is where I work. A friend got an apartment in the city's historic center for about $600(4500kr) a month. It is smaller, but is right in the heart of the entertainment and shopping center of the old city. I just could not imagine waiting 2 years just to rent. The rates on these apartments sound high, but that is because they are the nice expensive units, I could rent in a different neighborhood for a cheaper rate, say $350-$450(2600kr-3300kr) but I like the nicer places.

As to Stockholm, sounds like the government regulation just made a black market for apartments pop up. Sorry, but if that is what rent control will do, then I'll take the free market. I feel sorry for the people in Stockholm having to wait that long.
23:18 February 8, 2010 by raffe
It is absolutely not true that there's no waiting list in Amsterdam (or even in smaller towns in The Netherlands). It takes years to get something. The only solution to finding yourself an apartment is to rent private and the rents are usually high. Anything between 1500-3500 euro for a 2-bedroom excl. gas, electricity and water is possible...

I don't really understand where Fastighetsägarna got their data from...

As commented before by others... Affordable housing is an issue in almost every major and/or university city in Western Europe...
00:18 February 9, 2010 by here for the summer
@brittinSweden did you rent through a company?

Because of this silly law there is a shortage as @wxman says but there are many markets. If you renting as a company, embassy etc as I have understood the landlord doesn't have to worry about the law and all it's side effects and renting is much easier.

The law as it sits gives a lot of power to the regulation agency by taking market forces out of the equation. The rent is determined by a formula that doesn't take into account views, location, and even the state of the property.
01:18 February 9, 2010 by CanadianInSweden
me and my gf searched for 3 months in Göteborg for a decent place to rent and found nothing other then in some¨little Iran¨ ghetto neighborhood that reminded me of the projects in the Bronx,we eventually gave up and talked both of our parents into backing us to buy a place,took 4 days from starting with a real estate agent(my gf's step father) till we signed,moved in 3 weeks later,a great place10mins on the train from Nordstan...i have lived in Toronto,New York City,Amsterdam,Barcelona,Canary Islands,Greek Islands,London,Ibiza and in those places i had an apartment in 24 hours of looking,some less,matter of picking up a newspaper and calling some numbers..Sweden is ridiculous for finding housing,even if u have money and willing to pay for it..
05:27 February 9, 2010 by JoeSwede
If you don't like economic means as a way to distribute scarse resourses then you get these other methods. It's all about who you know, who has waited the longest, who can navigate the beauracracy. And why punish the owner of the building and allow the first renter the ability to sublet? It's not like I want the rich to run away with everything but it shouldn't take twenty years to get a place.

How about setting up a society where everyone makes about the same per hour and then let incentives play out. Have a good balance between owner and rental apartments.

I will say that I'm impressed with the quality of Swedish apartments. Swedes make good stuff.
05:27 February 9, 2010 by xenyasai
Taking one to five weeks to find an apartment in Amsterdam? Is this some kind of joke? Sure, you can find an apartment in Amsterdam in less than five weeks, but you will either be paying through your nose or it will be highly unlikely it is up to legal standard; or have any standard at all.

I have lived in the Netherlands for 2.5 years, and I could not be bothered living in Amsterdam. I can believe it will take less than five weeks to find an apartment in Haarlem, because that what it took for me.

I also know people from Amsterdam and some of them had to wait up to eight years to get an OK apartment.
06:34 February 9, 2010 by albert1974
Only 2 years!? Try to get a decent place in Uppsala! You need at least 5 years in the list, however for a new and nice central apartment, it could take more than 10 years!
07:21 February 9, 2010 by Craptastical

That's minimum 2 years for a not-so-nice place or extremely expensive new production and 20+ years for an apartment inside the city with reasonable rent.
07:52 February 9, 2010 by Rick Methven
Everybody here blaming the rent control system for the lack of apartments in Stockholm is missing one very important point AVAILABLE SPACE.

In any city centre there is limited land recourses to build new accommodation, so the only way that the housing stock can be increased is to knock down the 4/5 storey buildings and replace them with skyscrapers. Doing that may result in more availability of rental accommodation but also changes the character of the city.

One of the more refreshing aspects of Stockholm is the feeling of not being crowded in by high rise buildings. Sweden has a policy of building out rather than up. There is land availability outside of the city and the policy that ensures that the infrastructure of good roads, public transport and provision of utilities is in place before new construction is started ensures that people can live outside the city centre but be within an acceptable commuting distance.

I have lived in London, Paris and Amsterdam, London has become a nightmare because of the lack of co-ordination between developers who just want to build and sell and the authorities who have to provide the infrastructure to cater for the increased number of residents. Amsterdam, like Stockholm has no spare land in the centre to build on, and has laws that prohibit new constructions in the City centre that do not fit in with the existing style. If you knock down and old 4 storey Gracht house, you can not replace it with a 20 storey tower block.

The reason so many people posting here want to get a place in Stockholm is because it has a better environment than a lot of other cities. Building up and putting a strain on the existing infrastructure may increase the availability of places to rent but would make it a less attractive place to live.
09:28 February 9, 2010 by CarlBlack
@Rick Methven: The article is not about Stockholm centre but about the whole Stockholm, so your argument of space does not apply. And look at the mentioned Uppsala: there you have plenty of space available and still there is extreme shortage of apartments for rent, while some for buying are available. If you want to rent for a period of 1-3 years, the only reasonable way is to subrent for very short periods 6-12 months(if you are lucky) from people leaving temporarily their bostad apartments. The problem is really in the regulation of renting.
14:35 February 9, 2010 by Amirsepehr
Why no one is paying attention o Göteborg?!?! It's not only Stockholm that suffers from this problem. It's almost the same problem in Göteborg, and since Göteborg is more of a "university" city with a lot of international students in Chalmers and GU, it's really hard to find a contract here. If you want to be in line in housing companies, you have to be in line at least for 1 year (this is the case with SGS student bostader and Boplats) So it's more a general problem to Sweden, not only Stockholm. And, it's amazing, why Swedish Government is not doing anything for this?
14:54 February 9, 2010 by CanadianInSweden

your right,i doubt Göteborg is much better from my experience(detailed above) unless you want to live in a ghetto(not naming neighborhoods, but if u live here you know where im talking about)...i need to find a new place to live as of oct 1..iv got on a few lists for apartments but not holding my breathe,probably gonna have to buy again,which isn't totally a bad thing,but i don't know how long i will stay so its a tough choice..anyone in göteborg need a roommate that cooks and cleans??? haha
17:18 February 9, 2010 by reco73
A huge problem in my view is the people who have first hand contracts and move out for reasons like moving abroad or buying a house m.m. but who still hold on to their lagenheter and just sub-let it to other people at a much higher hyran.

I think the Governement should put a stop to this....
19:40 February 9, 2010 by kenny8076
why are people waiting 10-20 years on lists for apartments? is there no desire to step the game up and buy a house? i mean you had 10-20 years to save right? i live in Karlstad and couldnt find an apartment being listed for about 8 months, luckily my girlfriends sister moved out of hers for 6 months so we moved in, not sure what to do after that. mind boggling that the country or development company's aren't dieing to start building massive apartment building....... wheres the thrive in Sweden to make some money, investments, jobs...... and most importantly HOUSING!!!!! i just moved here from D.C. and you can get an apartment ''that day'' if you want...... building apartments is a developers dream and does nothing but make money. I feel like alot of things done here is so mid-20th century.
11:52 February 10, 2010 by rumcajs
"Brussels, Amsterdam and Madrid all have apartments available, with little or no wait, at rental levels similar or only slightly higher than Stockholm". That's not true. In Madrid the average 1 room flat (IN MADRID, not in a town close to it) is about 800 or 900 euros and the salary most of people get is about 1000E. Then Brussels, Amsterdam??? They are both much more expensive.

You cannot look at it just like that. You have to think about the money people makes. The fact that Berlin does have lower rents and the salaries are also ok, doesn't mean that the flats in sweden are expensive.
11:22 February 11, 2010 by Gretchen
The problem is that you cannot own and rent out for a profit. Who on earth would want to rent out when you cannot set the rent yourself and make a profit (like in all other cities mentioned)?

This is also the reason why so many rental properties are in bad shape and repairs take ages. Why spend money on something you cannot get back?

15:59 February 12, 2010 by kgregory
Price controls always lead to shortages and rationing via political or economic means that favor the "haves" over the "have nots".

All resources are rationed-whether by edict or by pricing. When you allow pricing to float with the market there is an incentive to build apartments which increases the supply and competition which will then, ultimately, reduce price. Of course, that assumes that your political class ultimately wants more apartments built. This would increase the population density and make public areas and transit more crowded, so, it works in the interest of "the haves" to keep things exactly as they are.
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Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
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Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
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