Sweden: SUT launches 10 proposals for a sustainable housing policy

Hyresgästföreningen (Swedish Union of Tenants) is calling for a policy for more and better homes. Here are the SUT proposal for a comprehensive policy for the Swedish rental market:

  1. Rental negotiation and utility value:
    Yes to the collective bargaining system, no to market rents.
    This means that we feel that it should be the apartment’s utility value that determines the level of the rent, i.e. the quality and standard of the apartment. How the rent may be changed must also be associated with clear terms and conditions, so that the tenant can have peace of mind.
  2. Public sector:
    Yes to our public housing.
    The public sector must play an active role in the supply of housing by building and managing good rental accommodation at reasonable rents for all groups in society. It should be mandatory for a municipality to own and manage a public housing company, either individually or together with other municipalities.
  3. Housing finance:
    Yes to favourable construction loans, build to alleviate the housing shortage.
    We propose increased investment support, a favourable construction loan, which by financing the new production of rental apartments can guarantee stable housing production, so that the production of rental apartments increases when the production of other housing falls.
  4. Taxes and deductions:
    Yes to fair taxation between owned and rented homes.
    The imbalance between the forms of tenure has resulted in tenant-owner rights becoming more attractive as an investment than tenancy rights, especially in certain locations, and has also contributed to the shift from tenancy rights to tenant-owner rights. Reforms are required to create a balance between the forms of tenure, and better financial conditions for both the management and renovation of rental apartments.
  5. Land supply and planning:
    Yes to municipalities with housing shortages planning for more homes.
    Municipalities have a planning monopoly and therefore have a major influence on how land is to be used, even if the municipality itself does not own the land. With an active land policy and planning, the municipality can promote residential construction and sustainable urban development. Reforms are required in order that all municipalities with housing shortages can plan for residential construction as required.
  6. Ecological sustainability and energy:
    Yes to state aid for energy efficiency improvement and modernisation of the housing stock.
    Our homes both affect and are affected by climate change. Sustainable housing of the future requires the greenhouse gas emissions generated by our homes to be minimised, while at the same time our buildings and communities must be adapted to the new conditions that climate change brings. The housing sector, like all sectors of society, must do everything it can to minimise its climate emissions.
  7. Renovation:
    Yes to a stronger position for tenants in connection with extensive renovation works.
    The current situation is a result of a distorted tax system that does not stimulate long-term maintenance and insufficient government support for extensive renovation works for tenancy rights. But it is also a consequence of the influence of tenants over what happens in their own apartments being depleted through property owner-friendly practice in the rent tribunal. In order to secure the right of tenure, the position of tenants must therefore be strengthened.
  8. Housing allowance:
    Yes to increased levels of remuneration and greater legal certainty.
    The housing allowance has been eroded over a long period of time, and a declining proportion of households are qualified to benefit from it. At the same time, there is a great risk of a repayment obligation, which can affect individual households in an unpredictable way.
    The housing allowance should be reformed with a view to increasing predictability, reducing the risk of a repayment obligation and better meeting the consequences of inequality of income on the housing market.
  9. The housing agency’s regulations:
    Yes to allocation according to both need and queuing time.
    In locations with a major housing shortage, the number of years in a queue required for a direct contract has reached extremely high levels, which has made tenancy rights inaccessible for many people who would need it. The allocation of apartments primarily according the number of years in the housing queue is not always the fairest way, nor does it provide the best outcome based on actual housing needs.
  10. State rental guarantee:
    Yes to opening up the rental market to everyone.
    Both private and public housing companies perform risk assessments of a prospective tenant’s ability to pay the rent. In order to reduce the risk, and thereby enable more people to obtain a direct contract, there is a municipal rental guarantee, in which the municipality acts as guarantor for the tenant for up to six months in cases where the housing applicant has records of non payment, insecure employment and income, or debts. The municipal rental guarantee is a relatively unused tool in the municipality’s toolbox, which would be changed if the measure were reformed.
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