Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Some Swedes Are More Equal Than Others

One fundamental error that so many socialists / egalitarians / spirit-levellers seem to make is to try and address the symptoms of inequality rather than the genuine causes (as much as they could even solve the latter).

‘Egalitarian’ Stockholm rents feed black market

In the Swedish capital, an egalitarian-minded rental system put in place more than half a century ago to help erase social differences by permitting rich and poor to live side-by-side in the centre of the city has a very large flipside.

Hmm, let me guess – all those Swedes human beings aren’t playing by government rules?

The publicly regulated system has created a flourishing black market for aspiring tenants willing to dish out huge sums to skirt multi-year-long waiting lists for a rental contract.

What, you mean than artificially holding down the price has led to excess demand and/or inadequate supply? Surely not; don’t you know that all that market forces stuff is a conspiracy made up by swivel-eyed right-wingers.

Virtually the entire Stockholm rental market falls within various queue systems regulated by the municipality. More than 300,000 people are currently waiting in line for a rental contract in the capital, a city of around 2 million inhabitants.

Well thank goodness the same sort of thing doesn’t happen with things that are even more vital to life, like healthcare.

“The waiting times have been largely stable, around four years for an apartment in the suburbs and around 12 in the center,” said Per Anders Hedkvist, who heads up Stockholm’s Housing Service (Bostadsförmedlingen).

Oh, that’s OK then. Your system is broken, but it’s not getting any more broken than it was four years’ ago.

The public agency controls about 85 percent of all rentals in the Swedish capital. It and other queuing services aim to keep rents stabilised and ensure that apartments of the same size and standard cost the same, regardless of their location.

Imagine – an organisation controlling 85 percent of a market! Thank goodness it’s a public sector body otherwise ordinary people might get a raw deal.

Cecilia Bonde, a 27-year-old hotel receptionist, says she for years has been moving between sublets that rarely last longer than six months at a time, with short-to-no notice and rents up to double what the “first-hand” contract-holder is paying.

So it’s just as well that:

Seniority on the waiting list, not wealth or social standing, is the only criterion determining who gets in.

… officially. Just like proximity only determines who gets into, say, a British comprehensive school … officially. Unless you can afford to move into the catchment area of a good one.

While this may sound utopian in theory, critics claim that the system has given rise to acute housing shortages and an enormous underground market for such coveted “first-hand” contracts.

Quite. Basically, once you have one of these initial contracts, it’s yours for life, and you can sublet and make a packet, courtesy of the market distortions created by the city council. You could pass them on to your children or grandchildren even, wicked selfish person that you are.

Well, thank goodness that government is here to pretend that they can stop such gross inequalities occurring.

According to studies, rents in the city centre would likely skyrocket between 40 and 50 percent if the rental market was liberalised. If that happened, “Some people could not afford anymore to live in the center,” Hedkvist pointed out.

Err, but …

However, [Swedish Property Federation spokesman] Tufvesson refutes that argument.

“The rich already live in the centre,” he insisted.

Hmm. Sounds like they need some sort of system to eliminate those sort of inequalities. Perhaps some form of regulated rental… oh.

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