Denmark proposes affordable rental housing in Christiania enclave

Denmark’s government wants to build subsidised housing in Christiania, an alternative enclave of Copenhagen first established as a squat in the 1970s.

Christiania, here photographed in September 2021, could be one of a number of parts of Copenhagen to get new affordable rental housing under a new government plan.
Christiania, here photographed in September 2021, could be one of a number of parts of Copenhagen to get new affordable rental housing under a new government plan. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Christiania, home to around 900 people, is now legally owned by its residents and recently marked the 50-year anniversary of its foundation when squatters moved into a disused army barracks in 1971.

By proposing the construction of new subsidised housing in Christiania, the government could change the ‘freetown’ significantly.

The proposal to put new homes in the area part of a plan to build 22,000 new subsidised homes in Denmark by 2035, presented by the government on Tuesday.

The proposal text lists a number of specific locations in Copenhagen where new subsidised housing could be established, including parts of Nørrebro and Bispebjerg as well as Christiania.

“If we want to create balance in all of Denmark, we also need to create balance in our big cities. That balance is tipped when it’s hard for normal people to find housing and when new residential areas are on the way to becoming affluent quarters,” housing minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said, presenting the plan on Tuesday.

“We are therefore putting ourselves at the forefront of building more subsidised homes to ensure mixed cities,” the minister added.

READ ALSO: How the cost of renting an apartment in Copenhagen compares to other cities in Denmark

The proposal does not give clear detail on the viability of constructing new homes in Christiania, but says the government will “investigate” and “work targetedly towards” building subsidised housing in the area.

Neither is any figure given for how many of the 22,000 homes will be placed in Christiania.

The government proposes that municipalities be given the power to demand that up to 33 percent of housing in new developments are allocated to subsidised housing.

This will “need a change to the law and it will need money,” Dybvad said.

Ten billion kroner from Nybyggerifonden, foundation into which residents in newly-built subsidised housing have paid as part of their rent since 1999, will be used to build the 22,000 new homes by 2035, according to the plan.

The foundation, which currently has around one billion kroner, will be used to finance a new foundation for economically divers cities and will receive five billion kroner up to 2031, according to the plan outlined Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Christiania residents said in response to Tuesday’s announcement that they would wait until more detail of the proposal emerges before taking any stance on it.

“We don’t know anything about the proposal, so we’ll have to address it when (detail) comes,” Hulda Mader from Christiania’s press group said.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s ‘freetown’ Christiania hangs onto soul, 50 years on

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Boligstøtte: Who can claim Denmark’s national rent subsidy?

Residents of Denmark can in some cases apply for ‘boligstøtte’ (“housing support”), a reduction on their monthly rent.

Boligstøtte: Who can claim Denmark's national rent subsidy?

What is boligstøtte? 

Boligstøtte is a tax-free sum which people who live in rented housing can – in some cases – qualify for. It provides a subsidy to rent.

The subsidy is available to anyone who rents their home, provided the home meets certain criteria and the household income is under a certain level.

For example, your rental home must have its own kitchen (which would rule out student housing with shared kitchens, termed kollegier in Danish) and you must live permanently in the property.

Homeowners can also be entitled to apply for boligstøtte under certain circumstances. In such cases, the boligstøtte is a loan and not a subsidy, however.

The size of the subsidy – the amount of money you receive each month – depends on the overall income of the household (the total of the incomes of all wage earners at the address), the number of children and adults who live at the address, the amount of rent and the size of the house or apartment.

Boligstøtte is paid out on the first working day of each month.

How do I know if I’m entitled to boligstøtte?

Most people can apply for boligstøtte if they live in rented housing. There are a few living situations that can disqualify you, such as if you live with the owner of the property (including as a tenant) or if you own the property yourself and rent part of it.

You can, however, apply for the subsidy if you live in a property owned by your parents and pay rent to them (known as a forældrekøb – “parent purchase” – in Danish).

You can also apply for boligstøtte if you are sub-letting your house or flat, although the person sub-letting to you might have to change their address in order to avoid their income being taken into account in your application.

People who own their homes can receive bolistøtte (as a subsidy, not as a loan as detailed above) if they receive the state pension folkepension, or disability pension, førtidspension.

How and where do I apply?

You can submit an application via the website at this link. The application platform will ask you to submit a rental contract and other documentation for your claim to be processed.

If you’re applying after moving to a new address, you must have registered your change of address with the national personal registry prior to applying. This can be done here. If you apply within 30 days of moving, the subsidy will be effective from the date you moved in. Otherwise, it will count from the first day of the following month from when you submit your application.

The processing time for the application can be up to seven weeks. You’ll receive a confirmation of your application via your Digital Mail inbox, and you will also receive notification here once the application has been processed.

By how much can I reduce my rent?

This depends on the various factors on which your eligibility is calculated – for some, you will not qualify to receive any subsidy at all.

There are five criteria upon which your eligibility – and the amount you receive – is calculated. They are the income of the household; the savings or fortune of people in the household; number of children and adults living at the address; size of the home (in square metres) and amount of rent paid.

You will receive more money if you have more children. For example, people who live in rented homes and are not receiving the state pension can get up to 1,039 kroner per month if they have no children; up to 3,654 kroner per month if they have 1-3 children; and up to 4,568 kroner per month if they have 4 children or more.

The website has a tool on which you can estimate your boligstøtte here.