The rental market explained
Anyone coming to Denmark and especially any of the major cities will quickly learn that the rental market is very competitive and difficult to navigate. There is a general shortage in the major cities of the right housing options which has gotten worse in recent years.
For expats and international students, it can be very difficult to find cheap housing and the truth is they often get delegated to the expensive part of the rental market.
Let me underline a very important fact, finding a place to live in Denmark is not difficult, finding a place to live in Århus and Copenhagen can be extremely difficult. So when I talk about the difficulties of finding a place to live or rent issues they’ll be related to these parts of the housing market.
If you insist on living in the capital then it can take years to get established in Denmark and get access to the cheaper housing options. This is not something that happens only to internationals, and it’s not that Denmark or danes don’t like you. I would argue that we very much do. Danes moving to the bigger cities with no network there experience the exact same problems. It’s a common problem that danes battle with just the same, I guess we’re just used to it so we don’t think about it in the same way. Don’t get me wrong, the housing situation can frustrate danes as well, but living here we know the problem exists.
An example, I personally know a man who had to give up his dream of starting a new education, why? He’s a single parent, and can’t find an apartment that’s cheap enough so that he can afford to start the education. He can’t move to a cheaper area either because of his daughter and the arrangements with the mother.
So what is the situation with Copenhagen?
To be exact the situation in Copenhagen is that there are plenty of large and expensive apartments but few of the smaller and affordable options. There are in fact a lot of housing being constructed all around Copenhagen and the suburbs, but they are not building the right size homes for the current needs. Due to the local building laws the majority of new apartments being built must be 3 or 4 rooms and are meant for families with double incomes. These laws were made at a time when the City Council wanted Copenhagen to be more family friendly so contractors are by law forced to build apartments that are large and designed for families rather than smaller apartments.
Since the time when the laws were made things have changed in Copenhagen however, families are moving further away, more people are staying single and a lot of young people are moving to the city. Copenhagen has become more young, vibrant and full of energy. If you come during Distortion you will experience it yourself first hand. It also makes it more difficult to find the smaller apartments, everyone wants one and there are just not enough around.
The politicians have acknowledged the problem and are discussing how to deal with it but any change to the local building regulations will take time to implement and take effect. In the mean time there is nothing that can really help the reduce the problem, which means that you shouldn’t expect things to change any time soon.
Copenhagen is growing and apparently a single lady
For the past 10 years Copenhagen’s population has been growing and by a lot too. There has been a great move of people in Denmark from the provinces to the urban areas, Copenhagen has been the biggest recipient of new people. Simultaneously, a lot of expats and international students are settling in Denmark as well.
Demographics are changing too; more and more people are staying single and living by themselves than previously where the norm was to move together and establish a family. So, with new homes being too big and thus unaffordable, more people staying single and young people moving to Copenhagen the problem will likely become worse before it’s gets better.
The different housing sectors in Denmark
The Danish rental market is divided roughly into two parts, the private housing sector and the public housing sector (Sometimes also called general housing sector or social housign sector). The main difference between these two sectors is that the public housing sector is much more regulated than the private sector, is non-profit and there rent is a lot cheaper too. At the moment the majority of new homes being built in Copenhagen are private sector homes meaning they will be in the more expensive end of the scale. If you’re interested I explain the sectors in more detail elsewhere, just follow the links at the top.
You don’t need to understand the difference in detail, but here are a few guidelines to consider
- Unless you’re planning on living in Denmark for 5+ years don’t waste your time trying to get into public housing apartments. The waiting lists are too long.
- There more private sector housing in Copenhagen than public sector, especially private owner apartments.
- Getting access to the public housing apartments is more difficult the closer you get to Copenhagen since the waiting lists are longer. The farther away from Copenhagen the apartments are, the easier it will become to get access simply because there are fewer people on the waiting lists.
Locals who are living in major cities in one of two ways to the situation in Copenhagen, either they lose patience trying to get a cheap apartment and either move further away or they buy a house or apartment to avoid the expensive private sector rental market. You could and should consider the same.