In short, Riksbyggen can be described as a company owned by the building unions, housing associations (local housing associations) and by other national co-operative associations. The aim is to establish housing associations and contribute to the fulfilment of other aims related to housing and co-operation, as formulated by the owners.
Riksbyggen's form of association (a “co-operative economic association” according to Swedish legislation) is compatible with internationally-accepted definitions for co-operative associations.
Trade unions and popular organisations and housing associations linked to Riksbyggen's activities can become members of Riksbyggen by acquiring shares in Riksbyggen. Riksbyggen is independent of the state and organisations other than member organisations.
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How it began
There was a chronic housing shortage in 1940 at the same time as large numbers of building workers were unemployed. No one dared to invest and the means for implementing a public housing policy had not been developed.
Someone had to start if any houses were to be built, so the building workers unions took the initiative themselves and established Riksbyggen. The first housing association was registered in 1941 in Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast. Today, there are some 1,600 housing associations.
Since its creation Riksbyggen has developed from concentrating exclusively on construction into an all-sided service company involved in building, property management and residential services. Over the years we have been responsible for about a tenth of the housing built in Sweden. Over half a million people live in dwellings managed by Riksbyggen. Many people save in Riksbyggen's savings association and are then given priority to housing built by us.
Some 15,000 people hold positions of responsibility throughout Sweden in Riksbyggen's membership organisations:
1,600 housing associations, 35 delegate bodies, with a co-ordinating role for the housing associations, 30 local associations - voluntary organisations, consisting of local union organisations and popular organisations, Riksbyggen's democratic structures - The Council and the Board.
Members are primarily involved in organisational matters and committee work, study programmes, meetings, recreational activities, and opinion-building.
Riksbyggen has approximately 2,300 employees. Each regional office has building and property management resources locally. There are a number of site offices and service bureaux closely connected with our residential areas, and responsible mainly for property management.
Riksbyggen has access to specialists for all services required by a builder for carrying out new construction, rebuilding or repairs. Technicians, administrators and accountants carry out project management, supervise building works, property matters, loans, grants and calculations, purchasing, building management and inspection etc.
Riksbyggen usually acts as agent for the actual builder and client, for instance, the housing association or a municipally-owned housing company.
80 per cent of Riksbyggen's staff work directly or indirectly with property management - financial and technical management, planning maintenance and property services. The financial services available consist of three main areas: accounting, bookkeeping and legal matters and liaison with public authorities. The technical administrative services available consist, of liaison with the boards of the housing associations, and the residents, personnel administration and supervision, insurance, regular maintenance, purchasing etc. Included in our caretakers' responsibilities are tending gardens, cleaning, minor repairs, maintaining heating and ventilation facilities among many other duties. Riksbyggen also works with energy conservation at all stages of the construction process: energy inspections and developing programmes of action, proving, thermography, operation and monitoring, production and sale of heating etc.
Riksbyggen aims to promote co-operative ideas through its own activities and by working together in Sweden and internationally whith organisations supporting cooperative developments.
Unlike many other countries, there is no overall co-ordination of the co-operative movment in Sweden. collaboration takes pace at many levels, however, between Riksbyggen and the other co-operative organisations, in promoting and developing the co-operative idea as well as in purely commercial relations between organisations.
A co-operative economic association
A co-operative economic association is the concept in Swedish law defining and regulating business activities carried out in co-operative or closely related forms. The Economic Associations Act may be regarded as the Swedish equivalent of the various forms of legislation regulating co-operative activities in many other countries.
At the end of 1993 Riksbyggen started its own savings association in the form of an economic association independent from Riksbyggen. The savers' money is invested in interest-bearing securities that are issued by the state, banks and mortgage institutions. Unlike many other co-operative savings associations we do not use savings to finance construction credit or for loans to housing purchasers. These loans are instead raised from banks and mortgage institutions.
This solution makes it possible for Riksbyggen to offer savers a good yield and the rate interest is therefore higher than in comparable forms of saving with good security.
Housing savers are placed in a nation-wide queue for housing built and provided by Riksbyggen. At the beginning of 2004 there were approximately 26,000 members of the savings association.
A housing association is a co-operative association normally consisting of between 20 and 100 or so apartments (tenant-owner apartments) built together or as detached units in a defined geographical area.
The members (the residents in the tenant-owned housing) own a share of the housing association which in turn owns the housing. The members are free to sell their share and thus their tenantship rights on the open market.
When Riksbyggen builds and establishes a housing association, the shares are first offered to the members of Riksbyggen's home saving scheme, who can in that way find a place to live. When all the shares have been taken up, the association becomes fully independent, but usually retains its link with Riksbyggen by acquiring one or more shares in Riksbyggen, entrusting Riksbyggen with responsibility for the management of the association and its resources.
Housing associations in Sweden are subject to special legislation, the Housing Association Act, which may be regarded as being a special further development of the Co-operative Economic Associations Act for this purpose.
Companies or organisations (sometimes Riksbyggen) which are responsible for planning, administration and finance during the period of construction. The builder may in turn appoint sub-contractors to carry out building work. Riksbyggen usually appoints contractors for all its building work and consequently does not have its own production apparatus.
What is a housing cooperative?
A housing cooperative is an economic association whose purpose is to convey occupancy rights in residential or commercial space with cooperative apartments in the building owned by the cooperative to its members (members of the cooperative).
The rules that must be followed in a cooperative are found e.g. in the bylaws of the cooperative. In addition, there are rules stipulated in the Swedish Cooperative Societies Act and the Swedish Cooperative Housing Act. Decisions pertaining to finances and management are made jointly by the members.
Members are called once a year to an annual cooperative membership meeting which all may attend and express their opinions on the activities of the cooperative. The board of directors of the cooperative is elected at the cooperative meeting.
What is a cooperative apartment?
People who live in cooperative apartments are members of a housing cooperative. Members own the cooperative’s buildings and land in common.
Members have occupancy rights to their apartments for an unlimited time.
Shares (memberships) can be sold and can be inherited or transferred in the same way as other assets.
Is membership in the cooperative obligatory?
Yes. You must be a member of the cooperative before you move into the apartment. The board of directors decides on membership. If you are not accepted as a member of the cooperative, you may lodge a complaint with the local rent tribunal.
How do the finances work?
A cooperative must pay its own costs. As no one outside the cooperative is going to earn money on your housing, your housing is at cost. The objective of a cooperative is to look after the interests of all members – especially their financial interests – in the optimum way.
What are the cooperative’s costs?
Interest expense, property tax, and other taxes. Costs for heating and water, as well as maintenance, upkeep, depreciation, insurance, management fees, administration, allocations to funds, etc.
How are repairs, maintenance, etc., financed?
There are two types of funds for maintenance and improvements that are gradually built up using monthly allocations, which are included in the monthly fee. A common fund for financing planned maintenance and improvements as well as an individual fund for e.g. renovation and modernization of your own apartment.
Who sets the amount of the monthly fee?
The board of directors sets the annual fee so that it covers the costs of the cooperative. The annual fee is allocated to the memberships in proportion to the share price or share sum, depending on the wording of the bylaws.
Can you rent out your cooperative apartment?
Yes, you may sublet your apartment for a specified period provided that the board approves. If the board does not approve the sublease, you may lodge a complaint with the rent tribunal. Permits issued by the rent tribunal may be restricted to a certain period of time and may be subject to conditions.
Can you borrow money to buy a cooperative apartment?
After a customary assessment of creditworthiness, banks and other lending institutions may grant loans with the share pledged as collateral.