Housing for foreign talent: collaborative solutions

Published November 2015 in collaboration between Invest Stockholm and The Local.

Tech companies in Stockholm are recruiting like crazy, but many are concerned about where new employees will live. The City of Stockholm is initiating new ways to tackle the issue. 

Stockholm is already one of the hottest tech hubs in the world, with more unicorn startups per capita than any other region except Silicon Valley. And it shows no signs of stopping.

Indeed, Stockholm is the fastest-growing city in Europe, with the city's population expected to top one million in the next five years amid record immigration.

The City of Stockholm recently announced it was teaming up with the region’s tech sector and companies like Spotify, Klarna and iZettle to make it easier for international talent to move to Stockholm.

At the same time, the city’s housing queues have become infamous. So where will all the new talent live?

“The housing situation in Stockholm is actually quite nuanced,” says Julika Lamberth, Business Development Manager for Stockholm Business Region Development, the City’s official investment promotion agency . “For instance, many people who move to Stockholm want to live in the city centre, but there are great commuting alternatives if you want to live nearby.”

Lamberth notes that some 140,000 apartments are currently being built in central Stockholm, to be completed by 2020. But there are many more options in greater Stockholm. In areas outside of central Stockholm cities can also make apartment buildings higher, allowing for up to 24 floors - currently a rarity in Sweden. Just last week the city made plans to bulldoze an old industrial area in Årstaberg, making way for 900 new apartments and a school.

To help speed along such developments, Stockholm Business Region Development is stepping up efforts to link tech firms with local municipalities and real estate companies in the area.

“We have an extensive network,” Lamberth says. “A partnership, consisting of 53 municipalities in the region each with a great number of private landlords and real estate players.”

Stockholm Business Region Development works in close collaboration with the region’s tech companies.

“We have investigated what their needs are and connected some of them with real estate players inside and outside of Stockholm – like Järfälla, Lidingö, and Sundbyberg, to mention a few,” she says.

Stockholm Business Region Development is stepping up efforts to link tech firms with local municipalities and real estate companies in the area.

Tictail is just one of the companies the organisation has helped recently, when the startup needed help settling new employees.

“We actually were able to facilitate and make it possible for Bulgarian developers to find housing in the neighbouring municipalities,” she says.

Jonas Axelsson, recruiter at Tictail, says that the assistance came at a critical time. Finding homes for international employees is one of the company’s biggest hurdles. The company has grown from 28 to 65 employees in under a year, and nearly half of all new recruits are from outside of Sweden.

“When you google Stockholm you find out two things: That beer is really expensive and that housing is almost impossible to find,” Axelsson jokes. “I can’t do much about the beer prices, but we do have to help with housing.”

Without affordable and relatively central housing, tech companies struggle to attract – but also to keep – foreign talent, he explains.

“In order to attract the best developers in the world, we have to make sure they have a decent living in Stockholm. It’s very important that Stockholm Business Region Development has stepped in to help with this,” Axelsson says. “I have met with them several times now, and housing is always at the top of the agenda. This is our top priority.”

A couple of years ago, Stockholm Business Region Development conducted a survey which found that the main challenges expats face in Stockholm are finding housing and understanding how the housing system works – such as the difference between a first- and second-hand contract.

“In order to help guide international people through the situation we launched movetostockholm.com, where you can find an overview of the housing market,” Lamberth says.

Now the organisation is expanding the initiative with a twitter account.

“The newly-launched @movetostockholm twitter account is designed in order to connect people who want to move to Stockholm with those who have already made the move,” Lamberth explains.

The account, which is jointly curated by Stockholm Business Region Development and the city’s top tech companies, will offer insights on what it’s like to live and work in Stockholm. It will also allow the companies to inform the world about their respective recruitment needs, helping startups find just the people they need – wherever they may be.

The city also organized a housing hackathon last October to ask Swedes and expats alike how to solve the problem. EasyRental, a successful app started by Spanish expat Diego de Jódar Montesinos, was just one result of the hackathon.

“EasyRental is a great initiative,” Lamberth exclaims.

Meanwhile, Stockholm Business Region Development is conducting an additional in-depth study on the housing situation for tech companies and their employees, hoping to provide valuable information to the real estate sector and decision makers.

“What we see is that the different players in different sectors need each other, but don't find or talk to one another. We are here to facilitate that.”