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Accessibility adaptations in multi-unit buildings – The Swedish approach to achieving universal accessibility in an aging housing stock
Stockholm University, Faculty of Law, Department of Law, Stockholm Centre for Commercial Law.
2019 (English)In: Book of Proceedings: 8th Malmö Real Estate Research Conference / [ed] Peter Palm, Malmö: Malmö University , 2019Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Swedish legal framework regarding accessibility is primarily based on the regulations regarding accessibility that can be found in the Planning and Building Act (PBL) and the Housing Adaptation Grant Act (HAGA). PBL imposes technical requirements with respect to all newly construction of buildings. According to PBL, the physical environment in the common areas of a building, indoors as well as outdoors, and in the separate apartments generally are to have good accessibility for persons with reduced mobility or ability to orientate.

PBL, however, does not provide any technical requirements with respect to older buildings. Since the majority of the multi-unit buildings in Sweden are over 40 years old, the technical requirements of PBL do not govern most residents Sweden, are not binding and therefore not enforceable. For example, it is not possible to require that the owner of an older building increase the general accessibility of the building to meet the standards as laid down in PBL.

The Swedish approach to achieve universal accessibility in the older part of the housing stock is based to a large extent on public grants and economic incentives, rather than imposing requirements on the owners of multi-unit buildings. HAGA aims at reducing financial obstacles and economically-based objections as to making accessibility adaptations. The grants cover adaptations that an applicant might need within the apartment. This can be, for example, handrails in a bathroom, adjustments needed to get in or around the building’s inside and/or outside common areas. Such can be, for example, the installment of an automatic entrance door, a ramp to enter an outside playground accessible only by steps, or the articulation of surfaces.

The public grant is a fundamental part of the Swedish approach and political policy with regard to universal accessibility. Together with the technical requirements for new buildings, the national aim of the political policy is to achieve the UN goals laid down in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to create equality of opportunity and the possibility of full and effective participation and inclusion of disabled persons in society. Making independent living possible for as many persons with disabilities as possible is a fundamental part of achieving this aim.

The fundamental basis for this approach is generally perceived to be efficient. It has not been substantially questioned or debated. However, whether relying on economic incentives is an efficient approach and a sufficient measure to reduce the current issues of lack of accessibility in a vast majority of the housing stock and achieve the aim of universal accessibility can be questioned. A fundamental challenge with the Swedish approach is that it does not provide tenants or owners of apartments in older multi-unit buildings with any legal rights as to having the necessary adaptations and adjustment work done. The governmental grant is conditioned upon a formal written consent by the owner of the building allowing the applicant to make the adjustments in the building. If the owner of an older building declines a request from a tenant or a tenant owner as to making accessibility adjustments in or around the building, the tenant or tenant owner will not be able to receive any governmental grant and is not entitled to make the adjustments. The unwillingness of a building owner to make adjustments, or to allow adjustments to be made, even at the expense of the public, is a palpable issue in Sweden. The problem however is not perceived to be comprehensive. The fact that some owners do not give their consent to accessibility adjustments also is not considered a matter of substantial relevance for the possibility of achieving the general aim of enhancing the accessibility of the national housing stock. Above all, it has not been considered justified to interfere with the general principle of freedom of ownership to achieve this goal more quickly.

This project aims to discuss and analyse the Swedish approach to achieving universal accessibility in the older part of the multi-dwelling housing stock. Particularly, the possibility for persons living in multi-unit buildings organized as cooperative housing associations to  apply for public grants and be able to make necessary accessibility adjustments to the common areas of the building are examined. The purpose is to address and explore whether the Swedish approach to accessibility adaptations in the older part of the housing stock by public grants and economic incentives is an expedient and well-balanced measure for achieving the aim of universal accessibility. The current political and legal stances towards accessibility arguably heavily emphasize the protection of the property right of the building owner. This approach neglects recognizing accessibility as a human right and the necessity to balance this right against other rights and competing interests, such as the property rights of the building owner.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: Malmö University , 2019.
Keywords [en]
Accessibility, multi-unit buildings, Land Law
National Category
Law and Society
Research subject
Public Law
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175489ISBN: 978-91-7877-036-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-175489DiVA, id: diva2:1366914
Conference
8th Malmö Real Estate Research Conference, Malmö, Sweden, May 9-10, 2019
Available from: 2019-10-31 Created: 2019-10-31 Last updated: 2019-11-01Bibliographically approved

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