Are homeless figures rising because of housing crisis?

A Stockholm charity warns that the number of homeless people is on the increase as a result of Sweden's housing crisis, which is squeezing out those on low incomes who can't afford to rent.

Are homeless figures rising because of housing crisis?
File photo of homelessness in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

More and more people are forced to sleep rough or in temporary accommodation in Sweden, according to a new annual report on homelessness by charity Stockholm's Stadsmission.

And while the focus of the debate about Sweden's rented accommodation shortage often falls on young workers moving between overpriced sublets, the crisis has a much bigger impact, argues the report.

“The housing crisis hits homeless people the hardest. If people who are homeless were unable to get accommodation before the housing crisis, it is even harder now. They end up even further down the councils' lists,” Marika Markovits, head of Stockholm's Stadsmission, told The Local.

“The Stadsmission sees that new groups in society end up in homelessness, where the main cause is not abuse or mental ill health, but low income,” she added.

The number of homeless people was estimated to be around 34,000 by a national report in 2011, however the charity believes that the figure has increased since then.

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A total of 240 of Sweden's 290 municipalities report that they have a housing shortage, and the Stadsmission's homelessness study urges councils and the state to take greater responsibility.

“In our view, the government and parliament need to develop and adopt a new national homelessness strategy with a target for the number of homes, and targets for how many homes that should be built for economically disadvantaged households,” said Markovits.

She proposes a model which first offers permanent accommodation to homeless people with underlying abuse or health issues, and only then moves on to focusing on other social support.

However, the charity does not advocate adopting schemes common in many other countries where entire neighbourhoods are turned into low-cost social housing areas.

“Stockholm's Stadsmission wants more cheap homes to be built, but not entire housing areas only for people on low incomes. It is important that cheaper homes (…) are integrated with other homes in a housing area,” said Markovits.