Booted from boathouses: Six people living illegally in buildings at Sjøområdet evicted by fire and city officials


Six people in four buildings were evicted this week from the spaces at Sjøområdet by city and fire officials who say residing in them is a fire hazard.

Morten Dyrstad, head of the city’s technical department, said the evictions were a follow-up on a similar action that occurred in 2014 when all of the building’s owners were surveyed about how they were being used.

“It happened now because the darkness came and we saw that there was some lights in the area, and for this reason we decided we had to check out what the situation in the area was,” he said. “This activity is dangerous because of the fire station. it a matter of safety and life.”

The building safety standards for the boathouses are less restrictive than for residences, Dyrstad said.

“These are buildings that are are built to be used for boats for boats and other equipment,” he said. “There is a big difference in a that and buildings people can live in.”

There are about 40 such structures at Sjøområdet, Dyrstad said. He said there will be follow-up inspections to determine if any other buildings are illegally occupied.

City officials have said for years they want to remove many of the older structures and clutter, turning the largely industrial area into a businesses and residential one. It’s part of a redevelopment plan on a much larger scale as the city has lost scores of homes since 2015 due to avalanches and other mishaps, and is scheduled to demolish about 250 homes and dorms beginning next fall because they’re in high-risk areas.

The shortage of housing is so acute some residents said earlier this year they were forced to leave Svalbard even though they were employed because there was no housing available for them. In addition to the large number of homes considered unsafe, an increasing number of residences are being used for Airbnb rentals because of the higher income potential.

The government has infused large amounts of funding for short-term housing the past couple of years, including about 220 million kroner in next year’s proposed budget for housing and avalanche protection measures.