September 20, 2021

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Peace, freedom and very low rents

Peace, freedom and very low rents

new thinking: The embassy district offers residents low rents in exchange for extra hard work and participation in public meetings. Now they are publishing the model in new parts of Trondheim.

– This is the first time since I came to Norway that I define the shape of my apartment, says Husam Alnour.

He works as a chef and came to Norway as a refugee from Sudan nearly ten years ago. He lived in several municipal and commercial apartments over the years.

alternative model

Now the cooperation between Svartlamon Boligstiftelse and Boligstiftelsen in Trondheim for the first time gives him the right to control where he lives.

The district of Svartlamune is well known to most people in Trondheim. The district has its own pub, dance studio, concert theatre, kindergarten and workshop.

Just over 300 adults and children live in a colorful mix of old, new and in many cases homemade for cheap money.

The price is that one is expected to participate in the local democracy of the area and more volunteer work than even the most enthusiastic housing association leader can come in.

For those particularly interested, one might think, but the area is now growing beyond its borders.

In cooperation with the Housing Corporation in Trondheim, Embassy has acquired two apartment buildings with 40 apartments in Mellomveien a five-minute bike ride from Trondheim city centre. They will be operated according to important principles of the Svartlamo model: lower rents for increased maintenance responsibility, more sharing solutions and the expectation of participation in the resident democracy.

Freedom and Responsibility

The most important thing is to know that in two years we will not be fired or have to leave. Al Noor says that without a safe place to live, it is impossible to belong.

Now that they were finally in control of the decor and colors themselves, he and his wife took the opportunity with both hands.

On the balcony they made home art. The walls are painted in strong colors, the kitchen is to be renovated, there are renovation projects in all the rooms.

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For a two-room apartment of 45 square meters, they pay 6800 kroner. In the private market, a similar apartment is priced at 11,000 NOK.

Previously, I only spent 40 percent of my income on rent. That was before electricity, food, and all other expenses. Al-Nour says that made it impossible to save money.

rent above private

In Norway, it is an established fact that you must own your own home. But for many, the dream of housing is considered a lie.

Nearly one million Norwegians rent housing, and the number has increased by 90,000 since 2015, according to Statistics Norway. Many of them will not be able to buy their own home. Some because high rents prevent them from saving needed equity. Others because they don’t want a multi-million dollar mortgage.

Money has never been the most important thing to me. The most valuable thing is to have time to do the things you enjoy, says Brynjar Bergh, a tire specialist.

He and partner Martin Hammer secured a place in the family’s apartment on the floor above Hussam.

After several years in a cramped flat in Svartlamon, they finally got an apartment where the Berg children could have their own room.

– Here we also have a space to create a little library where we can hide away when the children make noise in the living room, Berg laughs.

more than owning

Securing good homes for people who can’t enter the housing market is an important reason to start this business, says Catherine Stendhal, Managing Director of the Housing Corporation Embassy and the main driver behind the new housing project.

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She believes that Trondheim needs a “third housing sector”, a commercially non-inclusive alternative to both market-driven ownership and rental models, commercial and municipal housing targeting disadvantaged groups.

The colorful anecdote tells us that things started to happen after Standal breached the Trondheim Housing Foundation board meeting and declared: “Give me a block and I’ll give you a third housing strip.”

One year later, they called her and offered her two.

More space: After years of cramped living, Brynjar Bergh and Martine Hammer finally have the space to give the kids their own room.

A home is much more than just having a roof over your head. This is where you can shrug your shoulders, feel a sense of belonging, and feel like this is mine. We must give people that security and freedom, even if they can’t afford to buy their own home. The only limitation we give people, Stendhal says, is that they must not let their freedom overtake others, and that they do not tear down something they think can be a load-bearing wall.

– Is there no danger of people being left in permanent rentals and not entering the housing market?

– exactly the contrary. Those who move here will have much better chances of establishing themselves in the housing market in the long term if they so desire. She says lower rents make it possible to save money.

Who will be allowed to live in the new blocks after the application process has been determined and considered by the embassy working group. The apartments are distributed according to criteria such as diversity and needs. The real test was whether the applicants had had problems in the rental market before.

– It was a difficult process. We have received many very distressing stories about people forced from their apartments, children uprooted from local communities, and people struggling to find stable living conditions. It can be tough in the rental market without meeting the municipality’s requirements for municipal housing, says Stendhal.

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Less than a third of those who applied were granted a place. Now Stendhal hopes that they can make the project a success, so that they can spread it further in Trondheim.

Shared in this ambition is Harald Bjørlykke, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Housing Corporation in Trondheim. The foundation currently owns 850 apartments around Trondheim.

– For us, this is a pilot. We want to take out parts of our portfolio from the municipality that has rented everything out before. We will now run several projects on our own to better offer the people who need it. Björlicki says Embassy is the expertise we rely on for resident regulation and joint solutions.

SV wants housing minister

The project in Mellomveien sparked local and ultimately national interest.

On Friday, SV leader Audun visited Lysbakken with two SV candidates in Parliament and Mona Berger, Deputy Mayor of Trondheim (SV).

There’s a lot we can take away from here. The basic principle is the same, says Lysbakken, that we want to apply at scale.

He says SV is interested in building a large, Danish-inspired third housing sector, where long-term rental at regulated rates is an important part of the market.

  • In its party platform, SV advocates the radical expansion of the non-commercial housing sector, among others by: ■ regulating non-commercial housing organizations according to the Denmark model. ■ Setting requirements for a certain amount of social housing in all new housing projects.
  • Lower taxes on employment, increase property taxes – to prevent housing from becoming an object of speculation.

Practically speaking, Norway does not have a housing policy. I left for the market. Several important steps must be taken to provide Norway with a new housing policy. Therefore, we believe the new red-green government should have its own housing minister, Liesbachen says.