18:08 GMT09 July 2020
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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (162)
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    Last year's migrant crisis put the Swedish welfare system, which is struggling to accommodate the new arrivals, under substantial strain. The 163,000 newcomers may also become a deadly blow for Sweden's housing crisis. Today, the Swedish government is considering sanctions against municipalities that fail to provide housing for all the new Swedes.

    With the Swedish housing bubble teetering on the verge of bursting, Labor Minister Ylva Johansson told Swedish national broadcaster SVT she would consider imposing sanctions to punish municipalities that fail to provide housing to the numerous immigrants.

    By her own admission, Johansson was not "looking for a conflict" with the Swedish municipal sector and rather sought to establish a healthy dialogue. At the same time, Johansson pointed out that she was determined not to let any municipality evade the integration plan the "red-green" government had agreed upon. The current plan by the Swedish government aims to "spread out" multiculturalism in the form of the new arrivals across the country.

    A total of 70,000 asylum-seekers were granted residence permits in Sweden in 2016 alone, thus becoming eligible to receive a home in Swedish municipalities. Many of Sweden's 290 municipalities are pressed for money in the aftermath of the migrant crisis and dread the idea of accommodating more newcomers. In late October, Ekerö Municipality decided to stop accepting refugees, having run out of "decent housing," to the dismay of Ylva Johansson.

    In other areas, local authorities already took drastic measures to buy villas, townhouses or condominiums for the newly arrived immigrants to have somewhere to stay. In Stockholm, pensioners were evicted from a retirement home, which will be instead converted to a housing scheme of 200 apartments, Swedish news outlet Fria Tider reported. At the same time, the government is pressing for lower housing standards in order to build temporary mobile homes, despite the risk of low quality construction and "unharmonious" environments, Swedish Radio reported.

    Another extravagant idea to combat the housing shortage includes converting some of the sights in Stockholm's Old Town into immigrant housing. According to Stockholm's opposition Vice Mayor Joakim Larsson, the historic island of Riddarholmen, which today is dominated by government offices, courts and other authorities and boasts houses ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, may be converted into a residential area.

    "The Moderate Party therefore urges the Minister of Housing to create more housing using underutilized properties owned by the state," Joakim Larsson wrote in an opinion piece in Swedish newspaper Dagens Samhälle.

    According to Larsson, immigrants should be free to stay in Stockholm, which offers more integration possibilities, as compared with rural Sweden.

    "Many new arrivals end up in rural areas with high unemployment, which reduces the possibilities for good integration," Larsson wrote.

    At present, 240 of Sweden's 290 municipalities suffer from a housing shortage, which has doubled in the course of only three years. In 2016, only 40 municipalities report having balance in the housing market, whereas only 10 reportedly have a surplus of housing. The housing shortage is most widespread in urban areas and university towns, where both population and birth rates are highest. However, smaller municipalities with a population of under 25,000 inhabitants report housing shortages, Swedish housing portal Hur vi bor ("How we live") reported earlier this year. Over 700,000 new homes will be needed in Sweden, a nation of roughly 10 million, by the year 2025, Swedish newspaper Smålandsposten reported.

    Topic:
    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (162)

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