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HOUSING

Housing crisis forces record number of young Swedes to live at home: report

A record number of young Swedes continue to live at home with their parents out of necessity despite wanting to live on their own, according to a new report from the Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen).

Housing crisis forces record number of young Swedes to live at home: report
Finding an apartment is not an easy task for young people in Sweden. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

213,000 young people in Sweden aged between 20 and 27 are currently living with their parents – almost a quarter (24 percent) of the age group. That's the highest number since Hyresgästföreningen started researching the figures in 1997, when the proportion was 15 percent.

“Having a home is a prerequisite for a young adult to develop their dreams, their self-esteem and their lives. And that's crucial for the well-being of a society as a whole,” Hyresgästöreningen senior analyst Love Börjeson said in a statement.

“It is not fair that 213,000 young people who want to have their own home lack one. Far more must be built,” he added.

Just under 57 percent of Sweden's young people have their own home through either owning the property, a 'first-hand' rental contract from the owner of the building, or a bostadsrätt (the right to an apartment in a cooperative owned building), according to the report.

That is the lowest measured proportion ever, with a major contributing factor being the proportion of young adults with their own first-hand rental contract decreasing. At the same time, the proportion living at home with their guardians or through insecure forms of rental has increased.

READ ALSO: Here's what you can get from Sweden's property market for one million

Around a quarter of the 200,000 young people who have left their parental home meanwhile have a 'second-hand' (sublet) rental contract or are a lodger in someone else's home.

And 80 percent of the young people who still live at home with their parents said they want to move out within the next year.

“The study shows that those who still live at home in general have a significantly poorer economic situation and greater financial vulnerability than those who have moved. For example, unemployment is higher among them than people who have their own homes,” Börjeson noted.

As a solution the union proposes that Sweden's municipalities should create a housing guarantee for young people up to the age of 25, giving them priority when first hand rental contracts become available – a move that has already been trialled in some municipalities like Sundbyberg and Helsingborg.

Sweden's housing crisis means it is often a struggle to find stable rental contracts, with nine out of ten Swedes now living in a municipality facing housing shortages.

As of January 2017, the total number of people in queue for a rental contract from Stockholm’s Housing Agency (Bostadsförmedlingen) alone was 556,000 people, meaning it would take almost 50 years for all of those on the list to earn a standard long-term rental contract.

READ ALSO: Inside Sweden's housing crisis

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PROPERTY

Nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can’t) do on your balcony in Sweden

What better way to enjoy summer in your apartment than by making full use of your balcony? The Local spoke to Henric Gartz, a lawyer who specialises on issues related to housing, to find out how to stay on the right side of the law.

Nudity to BBQs: What you can (and can't) do on your balcony in Sweden

“You should look at your rental contract to see if there are any special rules in regards to what you can and cannot do on a balcony”, Henric Gartz, lawyer at Fastighetsjuristerna Göteborg, a legal firm specialising in housing issues, told The Local.

“If nothing is specified, then you should follow the general rules and be considerate towards your neighbours.”

The three common issues that arise during the summer when Swedes take to their balconies are grilling, smoking and nudity, he said.

Barbecues

The summer season is perfect for grilling, and although many residential areas in Sweden have communal grills in the garden, this is not always the case. Even if they do, some people prefer grilling on their balcony to be closer to the kitchen.

“If you grill, it will smell of meat, fish or vegetables and it could smell bad for a neighbour”, said Gartz. 

Electric grills are often more suitable for balconies. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

It’s also important to check with your housing association or your landlord to make sure they allow grilling on the balcony before you get started.

“A housing association has a lot of freedom to choose whether barbecues are allowed or not,” Maria Mati, property lawyer at HSB, Sweden’s largest cooperative housing association, wrote on their website.

“Therefore, you need to check to find out what applies in your association. But even if it’s allowed, you need to make sure that you grill in a fire-safe way.”

“And respect your neighbours,” she added.

Smoking

So, is it legal to smoke a cigarette outside on your balcony?

“You are allowed to smoke on your balcony,” Gartz said, “But if neighbours don’t like the smell of cigarette or cigar smoke, then be considerate.”

According to HSB, there’s no general ban on smoking in apartment blocks, and a housing foundation can’t ban you from smoking on your balcony or outside space.

“But you should also make sure you show consideration here,” Mati said, warning that you could end up on the wrong side of the law.

“The Residential Tenancies Act’s rules on disturbances in the property, or the Environmental Code’s rules on nuisance could be used in cases involving tobacco smoke,” she said.

“However, in one case, the district court in Falun decided that smoking on a balcony was permitted to a reasonable extent, even if irritated the neighbours,” she said.

Again, it all boils down to showing consideration for your neighbours.

“Maybe if you see that they are drinking coffee and you know smoke annoys them, wait until they finish before smoking”, Gartz said.

Just because your balcony is small doesn’t mean you can’t try your hand at growing your own vegetables. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Can I have plants on my balcony?

Flower boxes are a great way to liven up a balcony or even try your hand at growing vegetables during the summer months – just make sure they’re hanging on the inside of your balcony so they can’t fall down and injure someone, and try to avoid water and soil raining down on your neighbours below when you water your plants.

Is it legal to sunbathe naked on my balcony?

It depends how you do it.

Stripping off on your balcony isn’t necessarily forbidden. However, you do need to consider whether the neighbours might see more than they want to while you’re catching some rays. 

As is generally the case with rules for what you can and can’t do on your balcony, the law says that you’re more than entitled to take off your clothes in your own private space – but this shouldn’t impact your neighbours. 

To get around this, you may want to put up a screen between you and your neighbour’s balcony (you may have to ask permission from your housing foundation if this involves drilling any holes in the wall), or even go full Adam and Eve with a strategically placed plant or two.

Another option is position your parasol so it blocks your neighbour’s view – just watch out for any gusts of wind that may strike at an inopportune moment.

If, however, people see you from the street this could be more problematic, and in some cases end up in court depending on the gravity.

Similarly, you can’t have sex on your balcony where others could see or hear you – this could lead to a police report for förargelseväckande beteende (disorderly conduct).

In a nutshell:

Apartment living is often about compromise, and this also applies to what you do on your balcony. Speak to your neighbours and make sure they’re not irritated by your behaviour – similarly, let them know if something they’re doing is irritating you and see if you can figure out a solution which works for everyone.

“It is important to respect each other and talk about issues, if you live close to other people”, Gartz said.

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