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 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 inter-municipal project Grow Together, the municipality of Boden, the Råneå Citizens’ Office in the municipality of Luleå and RÅEK (Råne River in Gunnarsby Congregation Economic Association) have carried out an inventory of abandoned houses in 60 villages in the Gunnarsby area and Råne river valley in Boden municipality and Råne- and Vitå river valley 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 SEK for the next stage, Grow Together II.
“That’s great! The main part 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.
As a first step, a project manager with good local knowledge will be hired. 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 be inhabited 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.
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.
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.
Text: Josefin Wiklund / Photo: Mats Engfors