Flats-out faith: City expects 15M insurance for five lost employee homes, buys replacements before settlement

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It may take most of the year to determine how many of Longyearbyen’s homes are too risky to live in, but city leaders are don’t see much point in waiting for the paperwork to clear before buying new ones for employees living in those destroyed by the avalanche.

Five homes owned by the city were among the 11 destroyed by the Dec. 19 snowslide on Sukkertoppen. The Longyearbyen Community Council is moving quickly to purchase new apartments for employees living in three of the wrecked homes, as well as two additional residences, before knowing for certain how much the insurance payout will be.

A total payment of about 15 million kroner is projected for the five homes, Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen wrote in an e-mail earlier this month to the council’s Administration Committee.

He argued the most sensible option for the displaced employees is immediately purchasing three apartments from LNS Spitsbergen at Elvesletta – a flat area well away from the mountains – that “are recently built to high standards, and therefore will presumably have low maintenance costs.”

“I see no reason why we should either rent or wait for an insurance settlement to put permanent housing in place,” he wrote, adding City Manager Lars Ole Saugnes, Housing Manager Mette Ostby and Finance Manager Elin Dolmseth supported the recommendation.

The committee unanimously approved the purchases Tuesday, as well as authorizing the purchase of two additional residences, for a total of up to 15 million kroner.
approved the proposal Tuesday. The full council is scheduled to vote on the purchases Feb. 9.