During the pandemic, there has been a dramatic shift towards online shopping and remote working, meaning that in Sweden there are now too many empty shops and business, but not enough housing.
Sweden currently has a chronic housing shortage, with around 140,000 homes needed.
Complicated rules make construction costs in Sweden among Europe’s highest. Mortgage tax relief, zero property tax and a highly regulated rental market have increased house prices and almost doubled household debt, bringing economic instability to many.
Converting commercial properties into residential ones could help take the pressure off the housing market. Sweden’s National Board of Housing, is currently looking over the country’s complex building regulations to find out how offices and shops may be converted into housing in the future.
“The corona pandemic has meant that more sectors are considering making distance and work-at-home solutions permanent, which may mean that there are properties that can instead be used for housing,” Deputy Finance Minister Per Bolund told Reuters.
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Around a fifth of Sweden’s five million workers are more than likely to continue working from home even after the pandemic is over, according to a study by the European Institute for Behavioural Analysis and the universities of Gothenburg and Lund. This will give rise to many more empty offices and the need to downsize for many companies.
A similar situation has been happening with shops. “The pandemic has only accelerated the effect of e-commerce,” head of research at property advisers Pangea, Mikael Soderlundh, told Reuters. “It is going to be very hard for many physical shops going forward.”
Because of this, property firm Wallenstam is already looking into converting 10-20 shops into homes.
These new investigations are just one example of how countries are looking towards the future in order to build a better one, once the pandemic is over.