When restrictions are lifted and people are once more permitted to see each other, our cities are rapidly trying to awaken from covid slumber. But the past year has spawned new habits and that means the city – to a certain extent – must adapt to our ways of working, living, and visiting.
To come to grips with the changes and to strengthen Stockholm as a progressive, lively, and attractive place, The Stockholm Chamber of Commerce has initiated a partnership with many important stakeholders and businesses in the Swedish Capital. We had a chat with Daniella Waldfogel, Chief Policy Officer at the Chamber, on how to make sure Stockholm stays on the map of where things are at.
What is Partnership for Stockholm?
– It’s a much-needed initiative that aims at joining forces between stakeholders in the business community with the aim of giving the city a renaissance after the pandemic. It’s no secret that the pandemic has taken a particularly hard toll on the bigger cities and urban areas and Stockholm is no exception. The blow to many businesses in for example in the visitor’s economy and the creative sector was devastating as the entire world had to press pause. The blow was also immediate as many businesses in the city are relying on a certain pulse and flow of people. Partnership for Stockholm is a forum where we can interact in finding solutions that will retain and increase the attraction for the Swedish capital as a creative center.
How’s the city doing now?
– It’s really starting to come alive again. There’s so much positive energy around now that was missing just a few months back. The economy as a whole has been able to come out of the pandemic quite unharmed apart from the few sectors that were hit extremely hard. Miraculously many smaller businesses managed to stay afloat and alive, and we have not seen mass unemployment, bankruptcies or declining growth as many anticipated in the spring of 2020. As a result, Stockholm has been able to maintain its character.
And how was Stockholm pre-covid?
– Stockholm was growing in terms of culture and entertainment. I think we were beginning to really establish ourselves as a more international city, similar to say Copenhagen. We understand that we can’t compete with size, compared to other global metropolis, however we are ambitious and willing to try new things. With that being said – I also think we can be even more influenced by other global vibrant cities when it comes to for example the night economy – making the city vibrant during more hours a day, and more days a week.
What can Stockholm do to continue to position itself as an attractive place to live and work post covid?
– I think we have a good starting point. There’s so much competence and smartness in the city, we have a unique headquarter economy as well as an amazing start-up scene that attracts talent from all over the world. However, we are struggling with a dysfunctional housing market. People can’t afford to buy apartments and there are no flats to rent. We also have a problematic situation in the capital region with rising criminality and segregation. These issues need to be addressed with the right measures. This development can unfortunately also affect our attractiveness and competitiveness. Stockholm is still a safe city, but that needs to be both communicated and experienced in reality.
Would you say that the housing-situation is the biggest concern?
– I believe that the housing issue is becoming very pressing – especially for young people that want to move to the city for work. Today this is getting more and more difficult as the threshold for entering the housing market is getting higher and higher. This is extremely problematic for young talent – but it has also become a significant recruitment problem for businesses. Next year is election year, I hope that we will see a much-needed debate around the housing situation in the city region.
Do you think we need to rethink or rebuild the city?
– Not really. But we need to expand the city outwards. There are many great initiatives taken in the southern parts of the city, where we have traditional suburbs that are becoming integrated parts of the city, but with their own unique flavor. Covid might actually have helped this transition as many people have been forced to stay home and thus started to enjoy what’s right outside their doors more. That makes for great potential to keep developing clusters outside of the city center. I’m thinking about local shops, neighborhood bars and cafés, cultural venues and so on. We’re already considered as one of the most beautiful and cleanest capitals in the world. We’re not as buzzing as London or perhaps as creative as Copenhagen, but we have other strong assets. We have a very innovative economy; the city is beautiful and its always close to nature wherever you are. Stockholm is also a very conscious and sustainable city and I think there’s great potential in exploring all this even more when promoting the city.