“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:
“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.