Guest Post: Can Modular Houses Solve the Housing Shortage in Stockholm?

Jenny Lindblad is doing her Master's in Social Anthropology at Stockholm University. Her email is: jenny-lindblad@hotmail.com

It is difficult to find a place to stay in Stockholm, especially for young people. The city currently hosts about 80,000 students. The waiting list to get one of the 13,000 student apartments is in average 43 months, and renting of sublet apartments is the best available option. However, second hand contracts only solves the housing problem for shorter periods, and involve the constant worry of where to move once a contract come to an end. A large number of young people living in Stockholm are, similarly to students, lacking access to longer term accommodations. The Stockholm municipality has since long been discussing actions to meet with the increased demand of apartments, but the construction lag behind.

In the light of this issue, the concept of Snabba Hus, initiated by the organization jagvillhabostad.nu, is much longed for. In cooperation with a public housing company and a construction company, they have developed modular houses that meet with standards required of apartments, with affordable rents. Since modular houses are movable, it is enough with a temporary permit to construct them. Such a permit can last up to 15 years. The difficulty to get permits for permanent land use in Stockholm partly obstruct construction of housing. At best, the modular houses can make use of land in the meanwhile, until they are replaced by permanent housing.

Picture From Svenska Bostader

However, the solution of modular houses can be criticized for not actually undoing the shortage of housing. As the name of the initiative suggests (translated into “rapid houses”), it is a measure that alleviate the problem for the near future. The shortage will continue to be a problem that requires more far-reaching reforms. Depending on how modular houses are integrated in the city, they risk reproducing the homogeneity of neighborhoods, similar to what Lior brought up in a previous post concerning student containers.

The promising aspects of this initiative, is that the members of jagvillhabostad.nu have participated in the development of the apartments. They are thus worked out to meet with standards expected by young people, such as availability of public transport and bicycle parking. The idea is not for the apartments to be temporary, only their location. Ideally, they can be integrated within existing neighborhoods and provide housing in locations that are under scrutiny for permanent constructions. While the location of the modular houses depends on temporary permits, the houses themselves can at best remove some temporariness from the housing situation of young people today.