Both immigrants and IT startups suffer in Swedish housing shortage

Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:10am EST
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By Daniel Dickson and Violette Goarant

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Despite its robust economic growth, Sweden is facing a housing shortage that affects rich and poor alike; immigrants are sometimes living five to a room and employees in the booming tech sector have also struggled to find suitable accommodation.

A housing shortage has sharply pushed up property prices in Sweden as well as in Norway and inflated Nordic household debt to the highest levels in the OECD. There are fears that a housing bubble could endanger financial stability in the region.

With more than a million refugees arriving in Europe over the last year, Sweden has struggled to reconcile one of the fastest growing populations in the European Union with some of the highest construction costs.

Many are paying the price.

"If I needed to go to the toilet in the morning, I would have to wake up one hour earlier for my turn," said Jean, 48, who fled Syria three years ago. He moved with his wife and five children from one crowded apartment to another, sometimes sleeping 10 in two bedrooms, before finding a permanent flat close to Stockholm.

A report from Sweden's National Board of Housing, Building and Planning said housing issues were harming integration of immigrants, worsening school results, leading to higher rates of crime and health issues like respiratory problems.

The lack of housing is also putting off businesses.

In Stockholm, where a one-bedroom "basement flat" with almost no natural light is on the market for 7.5 million crowns ($880,000) and black market rental contracts cost hundreds of thousands, the housing market was too much for German start-up Cuponation, an Internet company that helps consumers find discounted goods.   Continued...

A woman walks past a housing block in the Husby suburb of Stockholm, Sweden, in this April 7, 2014 file picture.  REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/Files