CONCRETE PROMISE: Here’s how crazy Longyearbyen’s housing market is: Somebody bought this uninhabitable historic building in an avalanche zone for 1.4M kroner


The government says it’s illegal to live there and even if you could it’s in a high-risk avalanche zone (several occurred in the immediate vicinity during the past week, wrecking a hillside cable tower and spilling across a road that had to be closed). But, hey, it’s nicely furnished and has cultural heritage site status, so whoever just paid 1.4 million kroner for it has some nice bragging rights even if – like the previous owners – they’re forced to live elsewhere.


The interior of an uninhabited concrete building near Huset is nicely furnished thanks to its former owners, but the couple was forced to live elsewhere in Longyearbyen because officials declared the building unsuitable for residential use. Photo credit: private.

But apparently the “maybe some day” potential of the tallish 80-square-meter concrete building a bit up the hillside on Vei 300 near Huset was enough not just for somebody to buy the property recently, but attracted a freakishly high number of interested viewers to a real estate company’s sale listing, according to Dagens Næringsliv.

“The view is amazing, the building is so tough and looks like a movie set,” said Einar Nyland-Storhaug, a real estate agent whose company listed the building for sale.

He said about 14,000 people have looked at the online ad for the building since it was put on the market in mid-April, compared to the normal 1,500-2,000 views for listings. The purchase price of 1.39 million kroner was submitted after ten days.

The building is in a historic area known as Sverdrupbyen, where barracks and a mess hall for miners were built for workers near the entrance of Mine 1B during the late 1930s. Most of Longyearbyen was destroyed during War War II, but the buildings there were spared and are thus among the cultural heritage structures in the city.

The concrete “tower” was converted into a residence during the 1990s and married couple who most recently owned it furnished the two-bedroom building and was able to live there part-time. But its current status as a cultural site and “red zone” avalanche risk means city officials have declared it unfit for residential use and getting permission to construct the extensive protective measures to make it safe will be difficult. Which means the new buyer is taking a huge gamble – albeit one that might pay off, Nyland-Storhaug told the newspaper,  estimating the property’s worth between 3.6 and 4.2 million if people are allowed to live there.

“The housing market in Svalbard is fierce,” he said. “There is a significant deficit in homes for sale and rental. The willingness to pay is insane.”