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Good for meeting friends, eating and living: what Gothenburgers think of Gothenburg

The vast majority of Gothenburg residents would recommend moving to the city and believe it is a good place, according to a new study.

Good for meeting friends, eating and living: what Gothenburgers think of Gothenburg
Central Gothenburg. Photo: Ellen Andersson/TT

The insight comes from a new study of Gothenburg residents by Gothenburg University's SOM Institute. In the autumn of 2016 it asked 7,000 people aged between 16 and 85 who were registered as living in Gothenburg a number of questions about their city – to which 3,463 replied.

Residents of Sweden's second city seem to generally be positive about it. Asked if they would recommend someone else move to Gothenburg, 75 percent said yes and only six said no (the rest did not know). Ninety-three percent meanwhile said they were happy with the place they currently live.

“Where you live in the city doesn't seem to impact how happy you are with Gothenburg,” SOM Institute political scientist Maria Solevid observed in a statement.

The study also looked at the image residents have of Gothenburg, asking them to take a position on a number of statements about the city: 96 percent agreed it has many good restaurants, 94 that it is a good city to live in, 93 that it has many places to meet friends, 91 that it has rich culture, 86 that it is somewhere to be proud of, and 83 that it has a good reputation internationally.

“How residents judge their city is an explicit indication of the city's appeal. Previous research has shown how a number of different aspects like salary levels, employment, housing quality, access to public services, culture, the environment, parks and recreation, safety, public transport, restaurants and nightlife all impact how content citizens are with their city,” the study explained.

READ ALSO: Gothenburg the world's 'most sociable city', study shows

The statement that the lowest number of people agreed with was that Gothenburg is a “safe and secure city” – 52 percent said that was true. Agreement varied on a regional level, and was lowest in the areas Torslanda (31), Kärrdalen/Slättadamm (33) and Kortedala (46), while most agreed in Södra Centrum (59), Stigbergstorget (65) and Bergsjön (68).

Gothenburgers have different concerns about societal issues compared to Swedes in general according to the research, which contrasted the answers with a pan-Swedish study from the same time period.

Asked which issues are most important to them, 25 percent opted for law and order (12 in Sweden in general), 22 percent infrastructure (two) and 18 percent housing (six). The most important issue was integration/immigration with 32 percent, but it was markedly lower than the Swedish average (45 percent).

“It's clear that crime, infrastructure and housing are very central issues in Gothenburg compared with Sweden overall. That's likely linked to incidents and situations in the city, and it will be interesting to see if and how it changes over time,” Solevid said.

Like Stockholm, Sweden's second city is grappling with a housing crisis, while problems with gangs in some suburbs have made international headlines in recent years. In 2016 an eight-year-old boy from Birmingham was killed when a hand grenade was thrown into a Biskopsgården apartment in what a criminology professor told The Local is part of a long-standing 'cycle of violence' in the area.

READ ALSO: More on Gothenburg's 'cycle of violence'

HOUSING

INTERVIEW: International students ‘vulnerable’ to Swedish housing shortages

People moving to Malmö to study now have to wait as long as a year to receive accommodation, Milena Milosavljević, the president of the Student Union in the city, has told The Local. The situation, she says, is "urgent and acute".

INTERVIEW: International students 'vulnerable' to Swedish housing shortages

The Sofa Project, run by the Student Union Malmö, received 80 applications this year from students who wanted to rent short-term accommodation, showing just how acute the current housing shortage is.

These 80 applicants were vying for one of seven spots, ranging from a spare room to a sofa bed – from hosts who sign up to offer their spaces to new arrivals.  As the programme only had seven hosts registered this year, the project had to close its application page to others, otherwise the number would have surpassed 80.

“They are ready to come to Malmö and sleep on a sofa bed at a stranger’s house before they find accommodation,” Milosavljević told The Local. 

Malmö recently received a red designation from the Swedish National Union of Students, which publishes an annual report assessing the housing situation in university towns and cities across Sweden. A red designation means that finding suitable accommodation as a student takes more than one semester. The report found that 61 percent of students live in a city that has been designated a red ranking.

READ ALSO: Sweden’s student union warns that housing shortages are back this semester

“The reality of Malmö and the reason why it became red is that to find suitable accommodation you have to wait up to a year,” Milosavljević said.

Some individuals, she said might have to wait up to three years to find their own accommodation, making do with second-hand contracts, long commutes, and living with family members in the meantime. For newly-arrived international students, who lack personal numbers when they move here and so cannot join Swedish housing queues, looking for suitable housing becomes a complex task.

“International students are more vulnerable because they don’t have a personal number to enter the system before they come to Sweden,” Milosavljević explained.

Milosavljević herself moved to Malmö as an international, fee-paying student. Because she paid tuition, she was offered housing by Malmö University. Based in part on her own experience, Milosavljević explained that the housing issue cannot be reduced to a shortage in the number of flats and rooms. There is also a shortage of appropriate housing options for different needs.

“They offered me accommodation in a student building,” she said. “Not an apartment, but a room – and I came with my husband. The room was not enough for two of us.”

Student accommodation must accommodate the different needs of different members of the student body, Milosavljević said, including those who move with partners or spouses, or even with their children.

In the past year, one new student apartment building was built in Malmö, with 94 new spaces for the city’s student body. This is inadequate, Milosavljević said. While Malmö is growing, and there is residential construction being carried out around the city, it is unclear how many of those new buildings will prioritise the city’s student population.

The city’s student population, too, is growing. As the pandemic era ended in Sweden, students returned to campus. And new students joined them. While student ranks grew, housing options remained stagnant.

“From our perspective from the Student Union, we have talked about, in the previous years, how the situation after the pandemic is going to get even worse for the students,” Milosavljević said. “There’s an increase of students coming back, new students, and already not even enough housing.”

Milosavljević has fielded calls and emails from students who say that they cannot move to Malmö because they cannot find housing.

“They are already working on it,” Milosavljević told The Local of the university’s response.

There are plans to create more housing for international students, but these proposals focus mainly on students from European Union, leaving other international students out. All international students should be given priority for student accommodation, Milosavljević said, because none of them have access to the Swedish housing market.

“I do believe strongly that the City of Malmö and Malmö University need to have urgent negotiations and start building straight away,” she said.

Because Malmö University is a public university, it must follow the lead of the Ministry of Education and Research. Milosavljević acknowledged that in the aftermath of Sweden’s recent elections, which put the right-bloc in power, student housing shortages might not rank highly on a list of national priorities.

“The Student Union Malmö considers this situation quite urgent and acute,” Milosavljević said. “We are more than prepared to sit down and talk so we can actually do something, instead of just having meetings. The students will continue to suffer if the living conditions and the bostad [housing] situation in Malmö is not improved.”

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