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Home* News and Stories → Housing market in Longyearbyen: avalanches and Airbnb

Housing market in Longyearbyen: avalanches and Airbnb

Housing market in Longyearbyen under pressure

The difficult housing market in Longyearbyen has been the subject on these pages already several times before. For years, it has been almost impossible to find an affordable place to live.

139 flats to be demolished

The situation got worse after the tragic 2015 avalanche, which killed 2 people in their homes and destroyed several houses. In the aftermath, a new avalanche risk evaluation was made for Longyearbyen. The shocking result is that houses with a total of no less than 139 flats have to be demolished, and avalanche barriers to secure remaining buildings are needed. A number of avalanche protections have already been built on the slopes of Sukkertoppen.

Further 41 fats at risk

Now doubts are coming up if it will actually be possible to secure some of the remaining buildings suffciently. The requirement is to build avalanche protection that is strong enough even for worst case scenarios of climate change – “business as usual” scenarios regarding future global CO2 emissions. In this case, foundations would have to go as deep down into the slope as 14 metres to make the barriers strong enough.

The question is if this is actually possible in the steep terrain. The answer is currently unclear. In the worst case, further houses with up to 41 homes will have to be removed, as reported by Svalbardposten. This concerns houses close to Sukkertoppen in Way 228.

Even though the result – demolition or not – is currently uncertain, one thing is for sure: the housing market in Longyearbyen will become even more difficult.

Residential houses, and avalanche barriers on Sukkertoppen

Residential houses, and avalanche barriers on Sukkertoppen.


Another factor which has caused public debate over years is the short-term rental platform AirbnB. It is no secret that a number of homes in Longyearbyen are rented out by their respective owners on short-term basis via Airbnb to tourists and not on long-term contracts to people who want to live in Longyearbyen. The actual number of homes that are lost this way for the housing market is not exactly known, but it is considered significant. When Svalbardposten recently researched the issue, 36 homes in Longyearbyen were offered on Airbnb.

More exact numbers are currently not available, so the community (Lokalstyre) has ordered a report from a specialised company to get more information about the influence of Airbnb on the local housing market. Depending on the result, the community could then consider limitations.

Airbnb is in the centre of public discussions linked to the housing market in many places in the world, but Longyearbyen may be more difficult than other towns: it is a small place with a small number of houses, where every loss makes a difference. There are many tourists with a lot of money, distorting the small and tight local housing market. Thirdly, you can not just move, settle down in the next village and commute.

One thing is for sure: it is currently almost impossible to find a home in Longyearben for smaller incomes.

last modification: 2019-05-26 · copyright: Rolf Stange