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Deserted Houses in Rural Areas Can Come To Life Once Again

Photo Mats Engfors/Fotographic

In the Råne and Vitå river valleys there are more than 550 empty houses, according to an inventory carried out in 2021. Now the empty houses can get a new lease of life. The municipality of Boden has been granted funds to continue the project and activate the houses together with local forces and the municipality of Luleå.

In the cross-municipal project Växa tillsammans, the municipality of Boden, the Råneå civic office in Luleå municipality and RÅEK (Råne älvdalsrådet i Gunnarsby församling ekonomiska förening) have carried out an inventory of deserted houses in 60 villages in Gunnarsby församling and Råne älvdal in the municipality of Boden and Råne and Vitå älvdalar in Luleå municipality. As a result, more than 550 unoccupied houses in varying conditions were identified.

In autumn 2021, the municipality of Boden submitted an application to Spira Mare for additional funds to continue the project and activate the houses. The Swedish Board of Agriculture has now approved the application and the municipality will receive just over a million euros for the next stage, Grow Together II.

“That’s great! The main issue is that Boden and Luleå are making this big investment across municipal borders and doing it together so that it becomes a joint solution. We have an enormous demand for houses and plots,” says Jenny Engström, head of operations at RÅEK, who worked on the inventory.

Village with single houses, road, snowy fields and river.
Now the villages of Råne and Vitå river valleys will get new inhabitants in old unoccupied houses.

Real estate is capitalized

As a first step, a project manager with good local knowledge will be procured. This person will work in the project together with a half-time position at the Råneå Citizens’ Office. Starting in November 2022 and continuing for 16 months, property owners will be contacted for dialogue, as well as the land registry, construction companies, estate agents and other housing agents. The target is to have 10% of the properties put up for sale or undergoing renovation before the end of the project.

“Some of the houses are actually already sold. People who have heard about the project have called us and asked about it, and we have connected them with property owners who we knew would be interested in selling. But we have not yet made contact with the large mass of property owners,” says Jenny Engström.

The project also includes workshops, communication and the development of a digital portal that will be integrated into the municipalities’ existing immigration services. Two years after the end of the project, a further 5% of the properties should be activated and five years after the end of the project, at least 60 people should live in the properties.

“The Boden area should live and develop in every part and many people want to settle in our beautiful countryside. This fantastic project, which aims to bring empty houses back into use, will breathe even more life into the Gunnarsby area and the Råne river valley,” says Claes Nordmark, mayor of Boden.

Luleå’s municipal council Carina Sammeli, Boden’s municipal council Claes Nordmark, Jenny Engström, Råek, and Marja-Leena Tallus Johansson, Medborgarkontoret Råneå, presented the news at the Business Breakfast in Råne älvdal on October 21.

To increase migration

The aim of the project is to increase the number of people moving into the municipalities and contribute to a vibrant rural environment. There is a great need for housing outside urban areas in both Boden and Luleå areas and the shortage is only expected to increase with the influx of people linked to the ongoing green transformation of society. This project will help to solve that problem.

“If we can activate 50 houses, it will create population growth. This can certainly be linked to the social transformation, to in-migration and the Housing and Lifestyle project, but also to our ambitions to create development outside the city center. We know that people want to move here, both those moving in from other parts of Sweden or the world, and those who want to leave the center of Boden,” says Patrik Lindahl, project coordinator at Boden municipality.

Two women in front of a large old house with peeling paint on the walls. Blue sky.
The identified unoccupied houses are in varying conditions. Some need renovation, others can be sold immediately.

Growing Together is inspired by the successful concept of Hello Home Village in Torne valley, which was awarded Placebrander of the year 2022.

“In the Gunnarsby area we have found about 100 abandoned houses. If some are renovated and someone moves in, it means a lot, partly from a sustainability perspective, but it also makes the village look nicer. We also hope that we can inspire private property owners to subdivide their land and create new buildable plots,” says Jenny Engström.

Contact details

Do you want to move here, perhaps to one of the empty houses in the Gunnarsby area? Contact our move-in host Linnéa Byberg here or contact RÅEK.

Read more: House inventory for increased occupancy |

Text: Josefin Wiklund / Photo: Mats Engfors

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