Institutional Prerequisites for Housing Development : A comparative study of Germany and Sweden

Abstract: The housing shortage in Swedish growth regions has been heatedly debated for a number of years. Extensive reform proposals have been made by market actors and academics. The former center–right government in power until 2014 emphasized reform of the urban planning process. The current “red–green” government has ongoing planning reform on its agenda, but has instead emphasized investment subsidies. In the debate, the German housing market has been put forward as a positive example.This licentiate thesis compares the early stages of housing development in Germany and Sweden to find any differences that could provide interesting points of discussion related to further housing market reform in Sweden. As the scope of such an analysis could be very wide, this thesis is restricted to urban planning law and implementation, and to city initiatives to increase housing supply, including the affordable housing segment.The first step of the research project was to identify the major problems related to Swedish planning law and its implementation and to map the current state of reform. The identified problems encompassed issues related to municipal strategies for housing construction, the urban planning process, the appeal process, areas classified as of national interest, regulations, development agreements, and municipal land allocation. The article “The Planning Process in Sweden: current debate and reform proposals” summarizes the government inquiries, bills, and reforms introduced to date and gives an outlook on possible future urban planning reform in light of recent political developments.Second, the urban planning and appeal processes in Germany and Sweden were compared. The article “Promoting Planning for Housing Development: what can Sweden learn from Germany?” discusses three alternative processes in German local planning (i.e., private initiative, facilitated procedures in built-up areas, and omission of the local plan under certain circumstances) as well as the organization of planning authorities and city demands for affordable housing. The conclusion includes a proposal for a facilitated local housing plan, the introduction of private initiative in planning, and ways to improve planning authority organization in Sweden. When it comes to planning-related city demands for affordable housing, more research drawing on extensive international experience is required.Third, city strategies for housing construction were compared in the article “City Strategies for Affordable Housing: the approaches of Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm and Gothenburg.” Although the housing shortages in these four cities differ somewhat in structure, the tools for implementing housing policy related to construction are similar and address organization, urban planning, land allocation, and subsidies. The German cities have a more active housing policy, cooperating with developers and using tools more consistently, than do their Swedish counterparts. They are also more likely to reach their construction goals.The overall findings of the research project stress the importance of political incentives in the formation of active housing policy.