IRON HEART - Portrait Stefan Sydberg

Updated: May 2, 2018

The vice mayor of the moderate party talks about Kiruna´s city transformation.

Gregor Kallina: Where do you stand now with the city transformation and where do you want to be? How are you doing this process in a way that people stay motivated and do not lose trust in the process?

Stefan Sydberg: We started very early to involve the local community and to let everybody join the mission. A couple of years ago different groups for different topics were set up to work out what Kiruna will be in the future. Each group developed their own agenda, like transportation, housings and communications. Locals had the opportunity to be part of these groups and to answer question forms, online or in the course of meetings in the city centre and the villages around Kiruna. The results, the vision, were written down, like sustainability, smaller city centre, tighter buildings. Thirty years ago there were 34.000 people in Kiruna, now there are only 23.000 people, mainly due to the fact that LKAB managed to make iron ore mining processes more efficient. In the early 80ies more than 2000 people were laid off, nearly half of the staff. Right now this is the minimum level of inhabitants. Population gets older and we need people to take care of them, the city has to grow for teaching, nursing, etc. However, this is not unique to Kiruna. But you have got to have a special interest to live above the arctic circle, therefore we want to build an attractive town to make people stay: Outside activities, tourism, cultural activities. The city centre now has no boutiques on both sides of the street, people want a more tight city centre, to meet other people, go shopping etc. Now people are more by themeselves.

Picture above: The house where Stefan Sydberg spent his first five years of childhood.

What do you do that people dont lose faith, there is nothing tangible yet, as people were complaining to me?

We made a mistake ten years ago, when we said: "Now we are going to move Kiruna!"

We started too early, people do not see the infrastructure work we did, like power supply or water supply. They noticed that we moved the railroad and built a new road to Nikkaluokta, but people do not notice this as part of the city transformation. Until now, there were in fact only preparations. The city hall being constructed is not enough. I can understand that people are frustrated. This year (2017) is crucial. We want to build as many blocks as possible in the city centre. Basically we are talking about ten city blocks, in 2017 we plan to finish the building contracts of 3-4 of them, both residential and business area. In those city blocks there will be approximately 400 apartments, 400 hotel rooms and commercial as well as business facilities.

What would you say are the main groups involved here in Kiruna, who maybe have a conflict of interests?

Occasionally we do have conflicts between Sami villages and new construction projects here in the area, but there are no conflicts in the new city centre, it is an old industrial area. Younger people want to live together, older people want to be close to the infrastructure, so there is also no conflict of ages. The only issue with the new city centre is that all apartments are new and therefore more expensive. For people who own houses, LKAB can already grant a good price that enables sellers also to buy a new residence in the new city centre. When you have rented an apartment you get an incremental increase of the new rent granted until it reaches the new final level. We are tearing down 3.000 old apartments, from 11.000 apartments and houses in total. So around half of the apartments will be torn down. Three to four years before you have to move you will be offered an apartment in the same price range which are older apartments closer to the city edge. In Sweden we pay 28% of our income for rent. In Kiruna we only pay 15% of income, because houses are older and incomes paid by LKAB are quite high. Also the other sectors have to offer higher wages, otherwise they would suffer from high fluctuation of personnel.

Picture above: Stefan Sydberg standing in front of his house in Kiruna near Luossavaara mountain.


How did your family come to Kiruna?

My grandfather, who was born in Vittangi, he came here in the 50ies and started working as a fireman. That is why i have a special relation to the fire station and i would be glad if we could also save this building. I grew up in Luossavaara, in the same house i live today. The