Every year thousands of Swedish college students are left without housing- for 2015, it’s estimated there were 20,000 “dorm-less” scholars at the start of the year. The university town of Lund in Southern Sweden has been experimenting with building dorms under the minimum size standards.
Designed as the first legal exception to Sweden’s minimum size standard for student housing (25 square meters), the original “Smart Student Flat” was only 8.7 square meters, but it came complete with a private kitchen and bathroom and was given high marks from the woman who tested the space for a year in 2013.
In 2014, 22 students moved into version 2.0 of the micro-pods (the BoKompakt). Built from local materials, like cross-laminated wood, the newer units are 10.3 square meters, but they still required an exception to the national minimum size requirement.
“There are strict construction rules about accessibility nowadays so they need to be bigger than they used to be just because disabled people need to be able to be able to access the apartments as well,” explains Jasmine Kitzing, student housing ombudsman with AF Bostäder. “So all our other apartments, all our other new housing is adjusted to be accessible. But this is a way to kind of negotiate the harsh housing market, so we have to do something to get more units out there.”
The units rent for 2600 krone per month, about $375, nearly half the average cost of student housing in Lund. Kitzing emphasizes that this will never become the standard option for students, but simply an option and that most of the units the non-profit builds are much larger.
“It’s always a hard balance because Sweden is kind of progressive in a lot of ways so that’s a hard balance trying to make housing really good for everyone and regulate it so there’s good ventilation, accessibility, heating, insulation, things like that. But also just trying to get a lot of units out there because we have a need for housing.”