Northvolt raises alarm about urgent housing shortage

Northvolt's communicator Sanna Bäckström is worried that there might be an acute housing shortage after the summer.
Northvolt's communicator Sanna Bäckström is worried that there might be an acute housing shortage after the summer.

Every month, 100 to 150 new employees arrive at Northvolt's factory, a rate of expansion which is expected to continue at least through the year, according to press communicator Sanna Bäckström. "We have hundreds of people looking for housing. It has become acute, especially after the summer," she says.

Skellefteå 26 september 2023 11:14

The housing shortage is widespread, and Northvolt sees a significant need for homes for families and couples who have already in Skellefteå, although the majority of newcomers are single people.

– 60 percent are single households, 20 percent come with families and 20 percent  with partners. That's where we see a significant gap in the available housing today.

While Northvolt has temporarily solved the problem, there is no long-term solution, something which has significant implications for families trying to plan for their children's education.

– It has worked so far, but now we are at a stage where we see an acute need. We are talking about more than 400 people who need long-term housing in the near future, she continues:

– It's worrying. These families want to find a home here, and maybe they don't want to buy right away, and want some time to think about it.

The problems also extend to transportation and public access to recreational activities. Many newcomers do not have cars.

– We are currently looking for second-hand apartments and locals who might want to rent out their summer cottages. Right now all accommodation is interesting if it is winter-proof.

Northvolt has its own housing placement service and also has modular housing, but these are for construction workers and project-based employment.

– It is possible to arrange accommodation there for the first time, but they're not suitable for families and couples. In those cases, they have to approach existing housing companies. Many newcomers also do not have a network in Sweden, and we have to help with the available contacts and support.

Should you have planned better for this boom?

– The basic attitude has always been that it is not desirable to build separate Northvolt communities. Of course, we are now at a stage where, given the external situation, we need to look at other types of solutions. Ideally, we see society growing integrated with us. We do not want to build communities that are separate from local communities, especially when it comes to permanent solutions.

What solutions are you considering?

– We are evaluating other solutions. Even if newbuilds pick up there are already several hundred people currently in the housing queue. It takes time to build houses, and right now we need to see how we can find more accommodation in the existing stock.

Sanna says Northvolt has a very close and collaborative relationship with the municipality and other stakeholders.

– We are in dialogue with several, and the government is one of those stakeholders. We believe that some form of central government action is essential to support the extraordinary situation that Skellefteå finds itself in.

– We absolutely cannot afford a slowdown in the housing market production, says municipal councilor Lorents Burman from the Social Democrats.

About 800 housing units will be completed this year, 1,000 next year, and another 1,000 in 2025, according to city councilor Lorents Burman of the Social Democrats (S).

– We are working daily to find other actors who can step in, but also note that Skebo (the municipality's housing company) has taken on a lot of new projects this year and in the years to come, and we will continue to intensify their efforts, he says.

It has now been a year since housing construction began to slow significantly, he continues.

– We have absolutely no time for a slowdown in housing production. We will therefore maintain a high level of production in the coming years. Skebo is a driving force in this.

He hopes that those with projects and land allocations will fulfill them, but is concerned that many have been refused bank finance.

– There are other solutions to be found, and in the meantime we are working with other private actors. We have full control over our own housing company, but obviously not over the market.

Among those who have completed housing units so far are Samhällsbyggnadsbolaget (SBB), and he says they have projects that are pending.

– We hope they will continue to build. Then we have a higher number of smaller volume players, who are completing projects and starting new ones.

SBB has maintained a high level of construction in Skellefteå - in Moröhöjden, Skelleftehamn and Krongatan, which is their next project, he says.

– They have also built rental properties. I really hope they can continue with this activity.

Northvolt is counting on you - what have you promised them?

– They cannot build housing. It's not their job. They are supposed to build the factory, and it's the municipality's job to create favorable housing conditions."

The slowdown in housing construction is not the fault of the municipalities, he says, and they do not have the final solution. The ball is in the court of central government.

–They should be agile and efficient in this regard, and provide tools so that we don't experience a deep stagnation. Skellefteå cannot solve the housing crisis; it's a national problem.

He also says that he knows that Northvolt, like many other stakeholders, is trying to influence real estate companies and the government to take action.

– In Skellefteå, we have been able to keep our heads above water so far because we started so many projects before the downturn.

Are you partly to blame for the situation?

– No, we're not. The municipality has two tasks - to create a comprehensive plan and detailed plans, and to create conditions where housing can be built. And we have 5,000 housing units in these different plans, so we are far ahead in terms of planning.

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