‘Refugees are not scary: rent out your free space to them’

'Refugees are not scary: rent out your free space to them'
Transit accommodation at Nobelberget in Stockholm in autumn 2015, when Sweden took in more refugees than ever before. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT.
Stockholm City recently launched a campaign urging residents to rent out free space to refugees. So why are so few locals heeding the call? Architect Karin Saler believes Swedes’ love of their personal space is at least as much to blame as any anti-refugee sentiment.

Stockholm’s housing crisis and a large influx of refugees have combined to make it tricky for newcomers to find somewhere to live. 

Karin Saler rents out a room in her apartment to a refugee and here she tells The Local Voices why she thinks more Swedes should do the same. 

Newcomers are by no means the only people affected by the accommodation issue in Sweden, but they are the most disadvantaged group. Established Swedes, students, professionals, even couples breaking up can struggle to find lodgings, especially in the big cities.  

So it’s not only about refugees. I just think most Stockholmers are not used to renting out their free space. 

I’ve heard about Stockholm City’s campaign urging residents to rent out their free dwellings to newcomers, and I heard that it’s not working out so well. 

For a start I don’t really like, or believe in, labelling people as newcomers or refugees. But I don’t get why it’s such a big deal to rent out. 

My tenant is just a human being, like any other tenant who could have rented a room in my place. He is now considered as a refugee, because of the war ravaging his homeland. 

My tenant actually came to Sweden as an exchange student but he stayed on and became a refugee because of the war, so now that’s his ‘label’.

The term refugee has become so irrationally tainted in Sweden and internationally that these people might just as well be aliens coming from outer space.  

But they’re just people. And I find it strange to have to keep repeating this phrase: they’re just people! 

All through my life I’ve lived with new people, in different towns and different countries. I’ve always shared a home with friends or strangers. I’ve always enjoyed it – and I still do. 

I think Swedes can sometimes be very obsessed with privacy and reserving their personal space. Privacy, space and hoarding things is an obsession with some Swedes. What an obsession!

Just do it! Rent out your place to a refugee, and if possible live with them. There’s no need to fear living with newcomers; they are not scary! They’re your new friends.

HER TENANT'S STORY: Have you had a house hunt as hard as this?