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What you need to know about the Norwegian housing model

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
What you need to know about the Norwegian housing model
The Norwegian housing model has garnered praise for its focus on social welfare, equality, and inclusivity. Photo by Stock Birken on Unsplash

The Norwegian housing model is a term that has gained recognition not only in Norway but also across the globe. But what exactly does this term mean?


At its core, the Norwegian housing model represents a comprehensive approach to housing policy that prioritizes several key principles: promoting homeownership, safeguarding a healthy mix of ownership and rental properties, social housing, substantial tenant rights, and widespread cooperative housing – to mention just some of the aspects often associated with the model.

Over the decades, the term "Norwegian housing model" has acquired almost a mythical status both in domestic debates (where you'll often hear Norwegian politicians rallying behind it) and abroad (where news outlets are likely to mention it in the context of the high rate of homeownership in Norway).

From its distinguishing features to its international appeal, in this guide, we'll explore what makes the model so attractive – and why it seems to work.

Key features of the Norwegian housing model

A fundamental aspect of the model is its emphasis on a diverse housing market. It promotes a mix of ownership and rental properties, ensuring that both individuals (think young people and students) and families have options that suit their preferences and budgets.

Furthermore, Norwegian law places a strong emphasis on tenant rights. Tenants have robust legal protections, including security of tenure and regulations against unjust eviction.

READ MORE: Renting in Norway: The most common disputes between tenants and landlords

Famous for its welfare state model, Norway also places great importance on providing affordable housing options for those with limited means.

The Norwegian government and municipalities work to build and manage social housing units, enabling low-income people to access affordable housing.

Another noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian housing model is the prevalence of cooperative housing associations, which allow residents to own and manage their housing collectively (you can find our guide on Norwegian housing associations here).


High homeownership rates: The most coveted aspect of the model

The Norwegian housing model has garnered praise for its focus on social welfare, affordability, and inclusivity.

However, the model's feature that tends to attract the most international attention is the focus on homeownership.

The Norwegian government offers various incentives to promote homeownership.

These include favourable mortgage interest rates, subsidies, and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers. All of these measures help make homeownership more accessible to a broader range of citizens – and the results show that the policy works, as approximately 80 percent of Norwegians own their homes (according to 2019-2020 Eurostat figures).

As Christian Fredrik Mathisen of the Cooperative Housing Federation of Norway (NBBL) told the BBC in a recent article, "The Norwegian housing model has been developed to create personal home ownership so that you own the home where you live."

Mathisen provided an example to illustrate this point.

Consider a building with three flats and three families residing within it. In some housing models, a landlord might own all three apartments in the same property, renting out two and benefiting from the rise in house prices for all units.

However, in Norway's predominantly owner-occupied housing landscape, most residents own their own flats. Consequently, when house prices appreciate, all homeowners benefit collectively, akin to ships rising with the tide.


Why does it work?

The success of the Norwegian housing model can be attributed to several factors. One of its central strengths is its balanced approach to housing, which provides various options to meet diverse housing needs.

Another significant pillar of the Norwegian housing model is its commitment to affordability. Norway places a strong emphasis on implementing affordable housing initiatives, which include subsidies and financial assistance programs for prospective homebuyers.

Tenant protections, homeownership, and social housing are also critical components of the model, as is sustainability.

The model also fosters community development by integrating housing with essential services such as schools, public transportation, and recreational areas. This approach improves the quality of life for residents and creates a sense of belonging within communities.

Generally speaking, Norwegian authorities usually engage in urban planning with a long-term perspective, taking into consideration the housing needs of communities and regions for decades to come. In practice, high demand can hamper these efforts, as one can see by looking at housing supply and prices in the Oslo area.

READ MORE: How the housing project freeze in eastern Norway affects future homebuyers

Overall, the Norwegian housing model's success is grounded in its comprehensive approach to housing policy. By addressing various facets of housing, from affordability to sustainability and social equity, Norway aims to uphold a housing model that prioritizes the well-being of its citizens and contributes to a more balanced society.

While the model isn't bulletproof, it has proven itself as a framework within which residents can find a way to enter the housing market without facing the headwinds present in some other European countries, such as regulatory hurdles and a lack of affordability programs.


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