Rural housing dilemmas: De-population and empty houses, as well as lack of housing

This project addresses the housing challenges in the rural areas by mapping the scope of the housing issue in the Nordic region and studying examples of how these problems are being dealt with at national and local levels.

A place to live is essential for everybody. This is also the case in rural areas where suitable housing opportunities for present and potential residents are decisive in order to maintain and develop the regions. Given the general trend of depopulation of the rural areas, lack of housing is not expected to be a problem there. Nevertheless, there are problems of housing in the Nordic rural areas – in some cases too many empty houses, in some cases lack of suitable housing and in some cases, both at the same time.

The situation differs between types of rural areas, with the ones close to towns often functioning as living areas for people commuting to jobs in the city. The general market mechanisms tend to regulate supply and demand, but in many rural areas, the market price is below the cost of construction. This means that there is no incentive to invest in construction – and following this lack of opportunities, to finance constructions in these areas. Apparently, the ordinary market mechanisms are not working here.

The following research questions are investigated:

  • In which types of rural areas does the described problem of market prices below the construction ones occur?
  • Which housing challenges are seen in these areas?
  • Which market or policy mechanisms contribute to- or mitigate this situation?

To answer the research questions the team will use a mix-method approach consisting of a literature review, interviews and document analysis in selected case areas. Examples of good practice of mitigating the challenges will be the outcome for possible inspiration at the national and local policy level.

The study is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development.