File photo: FREDRIK SANDBERG / TT
The opposition believes that more homes could be built near roads and railways, if the noise regulations were not as stiff. File photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

Opposition: relax noise regulations now to promote more building

"We are not that satisfied with the decision"
4:16 min

Swedish housing minister, Mehmet Kaplan, has not heeded calls from a majority of opposition MPs to ease noise-level regulations in order to enable more housing construction, including near roads and railways. And Björn Wellhagen, from the Swedish Construction Federation, talks to Radio Sweden about the implications.

Next week, the government and the opposition parties, apart from the Sweden Democrats, will continue to hash out a solution to the nation's housing shortage. One of the sticking points in the cross-parliamentary talks is the issue of noise levels.

Last spring, the Alliance opposition, supported by the Sweden Democrats, made a declaration urging the government to ease noise regulations, which the opposition believes would make it possible to build housing closer to roads and railways.

The majority in Parliament wants to allow noise levels of up to 60 decibels outside the facade of a home, instead of today’s limit, which is 55 decibels. When it comes to student flats, they want to allow noise levels of up to 65 decibels.

Björn Wellhagen told Radio Sweden that they are not that satisfied with the government's decision.

However the minister of housing and urban development, Mehmet Kaplan of the Green Party, has not yet been prepared to go that far, Swedish Radio News reports. He said that when the question has come up in the past, and been circulated for comment, there has been a lot of criticism over the idea of raising the permitted noise levels. Nevertheless, Kaplan has asked the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning to look into what kind of effects easing noise restrictions would have, and their report is expected in the spring of 2017.

The opposition, on its part, believes the noise-level regulations need to be changed sooner. When the Alliance parties were in government, they had proposed as much, but they did not manage to get the proposal through before they lost the last election in 2014.

"The housing shortage is urgent and so there are a number of things that we must do. We need to build near the water, we need to have the possibility to build near the shore and near railroads. We need to have housing for the people who, today, don't have a roof over their heads," Anders W. Jonsson, who is leading the Center Party while Annie Lööf is on parental leave, told Swedish Radio News.

However, Mehmet Kaplan pointed out what the government has done already to promote more building. Last summer, they instituted new rules in order to make it easier to build small apartments. Given the previous criticism against raising permissible noise levels, Kaplan said: "So we weighed the need to protect people and the environment, and the need to be able to build in more places, particularly small homes. And I think this trade-off was good."

But Jonsson is not satisfied, saying: "We're having housing talks with the government now, and if the government is serious about this, they need to at least start by following up on the declaration that parliament actually has made. Otherwise, there's no point in discussing this."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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