A ‘before’ picture of one of the containers that will house Swedish students.
Shipping containers are set to be rented out to students in a bid to solve Sweden’s chronic housing shortage. The Local has spoken to the company behind them – and to one council feeling the housing strain.
65 mobile homes are currently being built in Stockholm suburb Sundbyberg. Swedish building company XLNT Living has created the 26 square metre apartments from former steel containers. But the firm’s founder, Elman Azari, told The Local that they are just like any other modern newly built home.
“One of our challenges has been to get people to understand that they are in fact be quite decent to live in. They’re spacious – a lot more spacious than most student apartments – and they meet all standard requirements in terms of ventilation, light and so on. It’s just a question of mindset: inside they’re just like any other home. You absolutely don’t feel like you live in a nasty, closed container,” he said.
Sweden’s housing shortage was a key campaign issue at the last general election. Close to 300,000 young adults between 20 and 27 years of age neither own their own property nor have a long term rental contract.
The current accommodation shortage is particularly acute in the capital Stockholm, where in some parts of the city there is a 20-year wait for apartment seekers. This has resulted in a strong subletting culture, with prices spiralling in recent years despite rules designed to cap rental increases.
“Mobile homes could solve many parts of the housing shortage problem in Sweden today. Politics is the only obstacle. Of course more permanent homes need to be built as well, but in the meantime mobile homes are one solution,” said Anzari.
“The benefit is that you can adapt how many homes you build to the current situation. Say for example if you need to build more refugee housing. Then you can look at ‘okay, we think we’re going to get X number of refugees this year’ and build accordingly. But in five years’ time, the world situation may have changed, and then you can adapt to that,” he added.
One of the planned 26 square metre mobile apartments. Photo: XLNT Living
Sweden’s housing minister, Mehmet Kaplan, wrote in an opinion piece published by The Local in March that the government’s goal is to build 250,000 homes by 2020 to solve the acute housing crisis. His comments were echoed by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.
“The housing shortage creates social problems. Many young people remain at home for a longer time than they and their parents had thought. People are finding it harder to live their lives. This is a freedom issue,” Löfven told reporters last month.
Mobile homes are a common concept in countries with high population density such as the Netherlands and Germany. And in Sweden, one council that has felt the housing strain is Sundbyberg, just outside of Stockholm. It is Sweden’s geographically smallest municipality, with one of the country’s highest population densities of almost 5,000 people per square kilometre.
“We must try to find all possible ways forward to deal with the housing shortage. It inhibits Stockholm’s competitiveness, because it makes it hard to welcome people to the capital,” council chairman Jonas Nygren told The Local on Thursday.
The 65 mobile homes being built is the first stage of 220 planned student homes in Sundbyberg, which includes permanent housing as well as mobile apartments.
Nygren said that one of Sundbyberg’s main objectives is to build more homes for young people, but he added that more local authorities need to step up to the plate.
“We are frustrated by the fact that there’s so little happening and there are so few innovative solutions. These containers are genius, because they let you use ground were you would otherwise need to wait years to build permanent housing,” he said.
“But ultimately, what will solve the housing crisis is a political will, which is missing in many municipalities. Hundreds of thousands of new homes need to be built in the next few years. In the meantime, these mobile homes are a temporary solution, a complement to everything else that has to be done.”