In a bid to combat loneliness and alleviate social segregation in the country, the city of Helsingborg in Skåne county, southern Sweden, has launched a new type of housing where elderly Swedes are placed together with young immigrants.
The idea of the project called Sällbo (a portmanteau word for 'sällskap' meaning “society” and 'bo' “live”) is to place an emphasis on integration through socialising. This particular Helsingborg quarter used to house a seniors' home. With the onset of the 2015 migration crisis, when Sweden received 163,000 asylum seekers in a single year, it was converted into the country's largest accommodation for unaccompanied teenage migrants.
Half of Sällbo's 51 apartments will be rented out to senior citizens over 70 and a half to young adults aged between 18 and 25, of which 10 will go to immigrants who only recently got their residence permits.
The company initially planned to gear the housing towards older Swedes and young immigrants alone but chose to accept young Swedes as well, to bridge the gap between the two different demographics.
In the press release, Sällbo is described as a “new and unique housing concept placing an emphasis on the social aspect”.
Sällbo offers its residents two-room apartments with a balcony or patio. The size varies between 36 and 49 square meters and the maximum monthly rent is SEK 5,410 ($574). The rent covers electricity, water, heating and basement storage.
While the two-room apartments are small, the blocks are designed with a lot of common space, including a shared dining room, library, training room, film room and art atelier, as well as bedrooms where guests can stay. This is meant to maximise the time spent together. Additionally, residents are required to socialise with each other for at least two hours a week with a host for support and inspiration.
“By living together and having opportunities to interact through social activities, we hope to increase the integration between these groups, which often lack natural opportunities to meet”, curator Dragana Curovic said.
According to her, southern countries with a warmer climate offer ample opportunities for socialising outside. By contrast, in Sweden with its cold climate and winter darkness, opportunities are limited. Therefore, extra arrangements are needed. For the idea to function as intended, a varied composition of tenants was selected based on application forms and interviews.
Sweden, formerly one of Europe's most homogeneous nations, embraced mass immigration in the late 20th century. In recent decades alone, the share of immigrants and their descendants has surpassed a quarter of the Swedish population of 10 million. Given the demographic trends that include higher nativity rates among the newcomers, the share of non-Swedes is expected to reach half of the population at some point in the 21st century.
Immigrants tend to settle down in enclaves dominated by their former compatriots. Popular examples of this phenomenon are Stockholm's “Little Mogadishu” and Södertälje, which is often referred to as Mesopotälje after the historical Mesopotamia region due to its significant population of Syrians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans. Immigrants often lack any contact with Swedes whatsoever, except for social workers.
Immigrant areas dominated by immigrants, such as Rinkeby, which is 90-per cent migrant-populated, tend to be over-represented in the list of Sweden's “particularly disadvantaged areas”. These are characterised by parallel social structures, difficulties in police work, violent crime and religious extremism.