For more than a year in a series of blogs entitled “How will they be housed?” , I blogged around the local debate here in Malmö / Sweden on the slow-onset but predictable housing ‘crisis’ that was magnif d by the ‘unplannable’ context due to migration in general (the ‘right’ people didn’t arrive as I discussed in this blog) and the 2015 refugee ‘crisis’ in particular (these blogs).
In response the government has taken two big decisions. The first dictates who is responsible and the second a possible solution to fulfilling the housing responsibility.
Decision 1: forced responsibility
The new law, Den nya bosättningslagen, means that each municipality gets a certain number of newly-arrived (people who have successfully received asylum) allocated per year. This way Malmö has been allocated 400 people two years running. This is in stark contrast to before when each municipality could choose how many asylum seekers it received and some therefore choose to receive none.
A survey showed that only four of the 50 municipalities that will receive the most new arrivals in 2017 felt ready to meet the housing requirements. In addition to this number, all (asylumseekers and successful asylumseekers) have the right to settle where they want but then they are not entitled to the extra support and only what the other residents of Sweden are entitled to. Even so, many choose this path. As a result cities, like Malmö, host many newly arrived who have chosen self-reliance.
Decision 2: lowering the standards
A change in the planning law stipulates that until 2023, it will be easier to receive building permits for temporary buildings including housing. The maximum period is 15 years, but most temporary homes are expected to be granted for 10 years. This mean that the municipality must, before the decision is taken, assess whether the site of the building can be restored to its previous use after the housing has been removed. Before the municipality had to show that the need for housing was temporary, which was of course harder to get through.
According to this suvey, to quickly provide housing more than half of all municipalities have opted for the temporary housing solutions: containerhousing.
And the foreseen consequences
The government admits that the quality requirements for temporary housing are not as high as for permanent buildings and trusts that the municipalities will assure that the standards remain acceptable. The government also notes that an increased amount of housing will end up on land that are not intended for housing and that this may lead to disputes and opposition from neighbours. Also for this, the government hands over responsibility to solve this to the municipality.
Sweden steps away from universality in its housing policy
In Sweden affordable good quality housing for all stands central in its housing policy and as a result it is a country without social / public housing or dedicated housing (council housing, ‘the projects’, etc.) for people who require housing support. Instead the housing support from the Swedish government is mainly through rental support and you can live (in theory) where you want. This (in theory) encourages mixed neighbourhoods throughout the city.
These decisions by the government however allows for housing to be realized at a lower standard to everyone elses home in which a homogonous group – i.e. people who have successfully received asylum – will be housed in one place as opposed to relatively mixed housing blocks.
Building housing at a lower standard than all other housing for a dedicated group is a huge step and in the report on the amendment of the law, the Government note that there are social risks with temporary building permits. However, the government believes that the positive consequences of assuring access to this type of housing when housing is in such short supply outweigh the negative.
Lets explore this in a following blog!