New folk high school may mean 150 more Longyearbyen residents
Students enrolling at a new folk high school scheduled to open in Longyearbyen in the fall of 2019 will be able to register as permanent residents, which likely means the town can reverse more than a decade of decline in the percentage of Norwegian residents compared to foreigners. The Norwegian Tax Authority notified local officials about the decision this week following an accelerated approval process for the school itself. “I think this is a wise decision that shows that we locally, in line with national politicians, believe that a folk high school is a good contribution to the national government’s Svalbard policy, while creating local jobs and fitting nicely into Longyearbyen as holistic society,” said Mayor Arild Olsen. The percentage of foreign residents has roughly doubled during the past decade to about 30 percent, concerning officials seeking to maintain a strong presence of Norwegians in Svalbard for economic and strategic reasons.
Longyearbyen’s only vet, facing homelessness, gets offer to save her business
Astrid Vikaune, who was facing the closure of her veterinarian business this month due to the expiration of her housing rental agreement, has been offered another apartment by Store Norske that will apparently resolve her situation – for now. “If we solve the housing problem we will hold on for at least another year, but right now it is difficult to plan long-term,” she said. “It’s not predictable enough.” Vikaune has been living in an apartment rented from the city, with housing officials stating the agreement was not extended because an acute housing shortage means the flat is needed for employee housing. Sveinung Lystrup Thesen, Store Norske’s property manager, said the need for a local full-time vet made finding an available apartment for Vikaune a priority. But in addition to needing long-term housing, Vikaune is also concerned about the 750,000-cost of a mandatory security order for the business. She said municipalities on the mainland are responsible for animal welfare and therefore cover such costs, but Longyearbyen’s municipal government has no such responsibility. “As it is now, it will be much more expensive for customers if this has to be financed by us,” she said.