Begränsa lyxrenoveringar och utländskt ägande av fastigheter

Efter att ha sett premiären av PUSH, en dokumentärfilm som alla måste se, funderade jag mer och mer på utvecklingen här i Sverige. Hur antalet och andelen bostäder med överkomliga hyror för hushåll med låga och genomsnittliga inkomster bara minskar.

Samtidigt har utländskt ägande av bostadsfastigheter ökat dramatiskt. Nyligen tog det tyska multinationella bolaget Vonovia över Viktoria Park. För en tid köpte Blackstone group delar av Gottsunda i Uppsala. Blackstone group är en av de största Real Estate Private Equity-företag i världen idag med 136 miljarder dollar av förvaltade tillgångar. De finns i Nordamerika, Europa, Asen och Latinamerika. Liksom andra samma slags bolag expanderar de kraftigt vid fastighetskriser.

De skattar ofta i s.k. skatteparadis genom olika komplicerade och svåröverskådliga upplägg, varför landet som de äger fastigheter i går miste om behövliga skatteintäkter.

I Sverige, beroende på hyreslagstiftningen, är den främsta affärsidén att genomföra lägenhetsvisa upprustningar av tomma hyreslägenheter till mycket hög standard och höja hyran kraftigt. Efter uppköpet räknar dessa kapitalstinna företag med att kunna gå igenom hela beståndet på cirka 10 år. Haken är dock att man då inte renoverar fastighetens stammar och energisystem. Stambyte ger ju ingen hyreshöjning utan ses som underhåll. Men vad händer efter dessa 10 år med fastigheten?

I Sverige har denna utveckling pågått länge. Flera bostadsföretag arbetar med denna modell, som inte är långsiktigt hållbar och medför att antalet bostäder med överkomliga hyror minskar samtidigt som behovet av dessa istället ökar! Detta får inte fortsätta!

Denna upprustningsmodell måste regleras. T.ex. genom avtal eller lag som sätter en övre gräns för hur mycket hyran får höjas vid upprustning av enstaka lägenheter utan boende. En väg vore att inkludera även denna typ av upprustningar i ombyggnadsreglerna, så att det krävs avtal med avtalsslutande part. En annan väg är att skattevägen minska möjligheten till fastighetsspekulation.

Det finns en fara i ett ökat utländskt ägande av fastigheter i Sverige, direkt men även via ägande av svenska bolag som äger svenska fastigheter. Fastigheter är en del av infrastrukturen i Sverige. De går inte att flytta. Sverige måste kunna ha kontroll av sitt territorium. Detsamma gäller naturligtvis också vägar, järnvägar, vattenförsörjning och vattenledningar, fjärrvärme, kanaler, vattenförsörjning, elnät, fibernät, skogar, gruvor. Sverige är ett litet land med begränsade ekonomiska resurser, som genom lagstiftning måste försäkra sig om att det inte blir uppköpt av utländskt kapital.

World premiere of PUSH – an eye-opening documentary

At Saturday 23th March in Bremen Theater in Copenhagen the world premiere of the documentary by WG-film took place. A completely crowded salon (about 500 people) with an enthusiastic audience witnessed this film that described and explained what is going on in almost every major city on earth.

How different people were treated. How housing turns into a commodity, despite the fact that the right to adequate housing is a human right according to international laws. How pensioners are evicted from homes they have lived in for many years with the help of money from pension funds. How these are used to drive up prices and rents. How unknown new owners let the houses decay. That lots of housing estates are used as financial assets and stay empty in cities like London despite many and a growing number of homeless people. You just have to see this film!

Housing affordability is decreasing at a record pace. The local working and middle classes have become unable to afford housing in major cities across the world. London, New York, Hong Kong, Toronto, Tokyo, Valparaiso, Sydney, Melbourne, Caracas, Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm… the list seems endless. People are being pushed out of their very own homes – because living in them has become unaffordable.

Young people are getting trapped in a cycle of renting apartments that are becoming less and less affordable. Workers, pensioners and lower income communities face evictions and are left without a place to live. The high cost of housing pushes people into poverty and homelessness. In the UK and US, for instance, homelessness is increasing by alarming rates. More often than before, it is children and families that end up without a home. The problem is even worse in the Global South, where the number of people living in informal housing is projected to exceed 1 billion by 2020. However, the crisis also puts stress on the middle and upper-middle classes. In London, for example, even a doctor’s salary is not necessarily enough to buy a home.

This isn’t a natural, inevitable development. It can change. Residents should be able to afford to live in their own cities. It is time to recognise that housing is a human right, not a commodity. Let’s push back!

The Shift, presented in the film, is a new worldwide movement to reclaim and realize the fundamental human right to housing – to move away from housing as a place to park excess capital, to housing as a place to live in dignity, to raise families and participate in community. The Shift has been initiated by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, in partnership with United Cities Local Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Meny cities gave already given the SHIFT their support. It is also open for NGOs like International Union of Tenants (IUT), national and regional unions of tenants and others.

After the film Leilani Farha, Saskia Sassen and the director of the film, Fredrik Gertten were asked how they look at the development. Leilani Farha believes that if we really want to make change to ensure people can live in the city, then we have to be able to hold someone responsible for what is going on. It is the states. They also have the power to make changes. To stop this monster. She appreciated that I as a representant gave the support from IUT in the fight against this monster,

Saskia Sassen, professor of Sociology at Columbia University, has studied the impacts of globalization for 40 years and coined the term “global cities”. She explained why an empty apartment is sometimes a better asset than its use as a home. She describes the investments in housing as high-end land grabs. And called the actors crooks! This is more than gentrification, it is destroying cities.

Fredrik Gertten, explained why he wanted do to this film as he has witnessed the bas development in housing.

I cannot reproduce this whole interesting hearing, but afterwards the audience stood up and showed their immense appreciation of this film.

In the film you also meet Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economy. He explains how the private equity firms managed to grow throughout every crisis in the financial system, ending up becoming the biggest landlords in the world. Stiglitz also explains the big shift in history when the deregulation of the financial markets opened the floodgates for investors.

Roberto Saviano, Italian journalist and author of Gomorra, was forced into hiding after exposing the business side of organized crime. “Tax havens are where criminal capitalism and legal capitalism meet and merge. Mafia organizations were the first to create and facilitate money-laundering mechanisms through tax havens.”


This a quotation of the first pages of a very interesting essay by Ivan Tosics,, 31 December 2018. Try to get the full essay!

1. The financialization of housing 

There are many scientific publications on the financialization of housing – at the end of this essay, I give a short list of those, which I used in this essay. Most recently I have heard a good phrasing of the issue from Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, at the Housing for all-conference in Vienna, in December 2018.

Housing became primarily a commodity, where excess money can be parked. Sophisticated financial instruments change housing into a lucrative good while making rents for the users higher. As a consequence, excess capital of many players go now for housing, buying properties in „undervalued areas”, where more value can be squeezed out of housing, provided that the existing users can be kicked out. Politicians, in general, are convinced to support these players as they bring „new development” to the city. All this happens with legal structures, which governments helped to create but failed to control and regulate. In this process private equity funds are the largest investors, while private pension funds are the biggest financiers. 

It is difficult to estimate the amount of money involved in the purchase of housing and real estate in the world. The value of global real estate is about US$ 217 trillion, nearly 60 per cent of the value of all global assets, with residential real estate comprising 75 per cent of the total. In the course of one year, from mid-2013 to mid-2014, corporate buying of larger properties in the top 100 recipient global cities rose from US$ 600 billion to US$ 1 trillion.  (Plan Limited, 2017). 

Farha was referring in her speech many times to Saskia Sassen, who makes pioneering investigations in the functioning of international capital. Sassen, in her contribution to the Urban Futures conference in Vienna in February 2018, highlighted the uneven territorial spread of these foreign investment volumes: the top 100 cities with 10% of population concentrate 70% of financialized assets.

As it cannot be said in general that new investments always cause problems, we have to raise the question: what are the proofs that the financialization of housing increases housing problems rather than solving them? 

Housing prices in so-called ”hedge cities” like Hong Kong, London, Munich, Stockholm, Sydney and Vancouver have increased more than 50 per cent since 2011, creating vast amounts of assets for the wealthy while making housing unaffordable for most households not already invested in the market. Moderate- and low-income households are pushed to peri-urban areas with scant employment and services. Sassen adds to that the fact that in many cases the new developments bring around empty buildings in the best locations of the cities. Besides, when rented homes or mortgages are owned by remote investors, money mostly flows out of communities and simply creates a greater global concentration of wealth. Tenants living in housing owned by absentee corporate landlords complain of sharp increases in rent, inadequate maintenance and conditions as a result of substandard renovations that have been undertaken quickly to flip the home into rentals, and an inability to hold anyone accountable for those conditions. Finally, financialized housing markets create and thrive on gentrification and the appropriation of public value for private wealth: improved services, schools or parks in an impoverished neighbourhood attract investment, which then drives residents out. (Plan Limited, 2017).

Besides directly financing new investments, financialization also means expanded credit opportunities, leading to increasing debt taken on by individual households. This might make people vulnerable to predatory lending practices and the volatility of markets, the result of which is unprecedented housing precarity. Financialized housing markets have caused displacement and evictions at an unparalleled scale: in the United States of America over the course of 5 years, over 13 million foreclosures resulted in more than 9 million households being evicted. In Spain, more than half a million foreclosures between 2008 and 2013 resulted in over 300,000 evictions. (Plan Limited, 2017).