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Swedish PM: 'Stop arguing, start building'

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Swedish PM: 'Stop arguing, start building'
PM Stefan Löfven in parliament on Wednesday. Photo: Christine Olsson/Jessica Gow/TT
08:52 CET+01:00
UPDATED: Sweden's political parties need to pull together to tackle the nation's housing crisis, rather than keep rowing about it, the country's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has said.

With queues for rent-controlled apartments pushing 20 years in some parts of Stockholm and property prices rising 14 percent across the country over the past 12 months or so, Sweden's housing crisis remains one of the most hotly debated topics in the Nordic nation.

After months of heated inter-party debates, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan penned a letter to their opponents, published in Swedish broadsheet Dagens Nyheter on Wednesday, calling for greater consensus to help tackle the problem more quickly.

They point out that Sweden's national authority for urban planning, construction and housing (Boverket) estimates that more than 700,000 homes need to be built by 2025, as the country's population swells faster than expected, partly due to rising immigration.

"The government has taken a series of decisions to make it faster, easier and cheaper to build homes," the ministers argue in their statement, saying that they want to further simplify building regulations and increase funding.

However they argue that political infighting is delaying decisions surrounding housing construction and call for more cooperation between the Social Democrat-Green coalition and the main opposition centre-right Alliance parties as well as Sweden's Left party. The nationalist Sweden Democrats were not mentioned in the letter.

"We need to put political deadlocks and conflicts aside. Let us debate the individual proposals but agree that the goal is to meet the need for new housing. To this end, the government is prepared to do whatever is necessary," the text continues.

The ministers also argue that there is "great potential in increased housing construction" in Sweden, including helping job creation and job mobility across the country as well as assisting the growth of Swedish companies across different regions.

Löfven addressed the housing issue during Sweden's first parliamentary debate of the year, which kicked off on Wednesday morning.

"Sweden needs investment, we need cooperation. (...) Together we'll build a stronger Sweden," he said.

However, it may be difficult for the two blocs to find common ground on housing. The centre-left tends to argue that building more rental apartments are the solution, while the centre-right instead favours deregulating Sweden's housing market.

And Jan Björklund, head of the Liberals, one of the minor parties of the opposition, seemed to reject Löfven's proposal to work together across party lines in the parliamentary debate.

"There are two things missing in the Swedish housing market. That's housing and a market," he said.

The debate comes as as the country's coalition continues to struggle in opinion polls. Only around 33.5 percent of voters recently stated that they would back the Social Democrats or the Greens, compared to 39 percent who preferred the Alliance bloc.

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