SABO’s activities focus on the challenges we regard as being of particular importance to our members. For a number of years we have identified the challenges of ‘Constructing new housing’ and ‘Sustainable renovation and improving energy efficiency’, but ‘Migration and integration’ represents a new challenge.
Challenge 1: Constructing new housing
The shortage of housing in Sweden has continued to increase. We will need 436,000 new homes up to and including 2020 to match population growth over the next six years, which may be compared to the Government’s objective of 250,000 new homes.
There is broad political agreement concerning the need to build more. Construction prices continue to increase, with Sweden’s prices being the highest in the EU. This is impeding economic growth, primarily in metropolitan municipalities. The number of refugees coming to Sweden is continuing to increase, which is making the housing shortage even more acute. In brief, the situation is very serious, affecting both individuals and society in general.
SABO will continue to place a very strong emphasis on improving the capacity of member companies to build new housing. We are primarily doing this through our work with SABO’s Kombohus; multi-dwelling buildings built under framework agreements and subject to price pressure that our members can build at a price 25 per cent lower than the general market price. SABO will also continue to place emphasis on disclosing the high level of costs within the construction industry, the lack of competition and the lack of development land with detailed development plans, primarily in metropolitan municipalities.
The overall challenge to the construction of new housing also involves continuing the work to achieve economic equilibrium between the various forms of occupancy.
Challenge 2: Sustainable renovation and improving energy efficiency
Another urgent challenge is the refurbishment of homes from the ‘record years’. These houses were built during the period 1961 to 1975 and thus include what we often refer to as ‘the Million Homes Programme’. The construction of so many buildings within a very short period of time means that the need to refurbish them coincides in time, which is causing problems among other things with the financing of this work. The refurbishment encompasses several dimensions: technical defects; more stringent official requirements (including reduced energy use); social factors and adaptation to new needs and demands. There is also a need to be able to retain to some extent a simpler standard and thus lower rent for sections of the stock.
Work has started to produce a model for sustainable refurbishment covering all aspects. This project is called ‘Sustainable Homes’, the purpose of which is to, like the Kombohus, supress prices through procurements and framework agreements. The project will also result in a recommendation that will make the refurbishment process easier and ensure tenant participation as well as develop a pedagogical calculation support system for member companies and tenants.
Many companies also find it difficult to arrange energy efficiency improvements in conjunction renovation work. SABO is consequently continuing its work to support companies to implement their own measures to enhance their competence, develop methods and refine techniques in respect of energy efficiency improvements. We are doing this, for example, within the framework of the work relating to the SABO companies’ Skåne Initiative and the Energy-saving campaign for the Swedish public housing sector, which involves both member companies and their tenants in the work to improve energy efficiency.
Challenge 3: Migration and integration
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers coming to Sweden fleeing from war and poverty in various trouble spots, primarily from Syria but also Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is expected that this number will remain high. One of the major challenges is finding homes for all asylum seekers and refugees granted a residence permit at a time when a significant shortage of housing prevails, not least for rental properties.
Public housing companies are already assuming a significant responsibility for reception by leasing accommodation centres (abo accommodation) to the Swedish Migration Agency and letting homes directly to newcomers (ebo accommodation). However, Sweden’s housing shortage, due to the construction of new housing not having met the population increase for many years, has made this work particularly difficult.
The public housing companies therefore need to cooperate with various stakeholders to be able to build and develop sustainable housing solutions for new arrivals. It has also become clear that solutions are required at a regional level: this must no longer be just a local responsibility. Dwellings and residents are connected with other welfare issues, and it is consequently important to be able to promote the rapid integration and establishment of new arrivals in the housing and labour markets.
SABO therefore launched a project in 2015 called ‘A sustainable integration strategy’ to develop methods and present concrete proposals and solutions within this area by studying good examples. SABO companies can provide many good examples of initiatives to promote integration, and the project captures these experiences to be able to establish a long-term and sustainable integration strategy for the public housing sector. Good cooperation with, among others, the Swedish Public Employment Service, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), the Swedish Migration Agency, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, the Swedish National Agency for Education, the county administrative boards, municipal authorities and voluntary organisations is crucial for the success of these initiatives.