Four Thousand Seedlings Planted in ‘New Year’s Forest’

Members of ICE-SAR and the Icelandic Forestry Association planted 4,000 tree seedlings on Wednesday as part of the Áramótaskógur (‘New Year’s Forest’) on Selfjall mountain just outside of Kópavogur in the capital area, RÚV reports.

Slysavarnafélagið Landsbjörg, Facebook

The seedlings were sold as part of annual fundraising efforts for ICE-SAR, Iceland’s volunteer-staffed search and rescue association. Traditionally, ICE-SAR has sold New Year’s fireworks to raise money for its efforts. However, concerns about the environmental impact of Iceland’s New Year’s fireworks extravaganza have led, in recent years, to New Year’s seedlings being sold as well. ICE-SAR currently has a contract in place with the forestry association to sell New Year’s seedlings through 2023.

Read More: Tree Seedlings to Supplement Firework Sales Over Next 3 Years

Eight thousand seedlings were sold as part of the most recent New Year’s fundraiser and will be planted all over the country.

Interest-Free Loans for First-Time, Low-Income Buyers

If passed, a new bill would see the Icelandic government provide low-income buyers interest-free loans of 20% of the purchase price of their first apartment, RÚV reports. The 20% loan would not require any repayment; rather, the state would recoup 20% of the apartment price at the time of sale.

The bill was proposed by Minister of Social Affairs and Equality Ásmundur Einar Daðason. The income threshold to qualify for the loans would be ISK 7.6 million ($56,400/€50,900) a year for individuals and ISK 10.6 million ($78,700/€69,700) a year for married or cohabitating couples. These thresholds would increase by ISK 1.6 million ($11,900/€10,500) per child or teenager residing in the home.

Per the loan terms, the buyer(s) would put up a minimum of 5% of the purchase price themselves. Up to 75% of the cost would be funded by a loan from a lending institution, and the remaining 20% would come from the government. The government loan would be for 25 years and would not accrue interest or require repayment during that period unless the buyer’s income increased beyond the aforementioned thresholds for three consecutive years during the loan period.

Helping People Get Out of the Rental Market

Ásmundur Einar explained that these loans are aimed at helping people out of the rental market and that the bill represents a significant priority for him. “We are here to help people who haven’t been able to enter the real estate market, but have been stuck [renting]. Both union leadership and the business community have called for this, which is why it has formed the backbone of the government’s housing package and living wage contract.”

The loan would also benefit those who have not owned property in at least five years, thereby aiding those who lost their homes in the wake of Iceland’s 2008 economic collapse. The loans are furthermore intended to go towards new builds, explained Rún Knútsdóttir, a lawyer at the state housing association. “[T]his way, we’re actually also helping to ensure that supply increases commensurately with demand.”

If the bill passes, the government could be expected to put ISK 4 billion ($29.7 million/€26.3 million) towards these home loans in the coming years.

The full loan conditions would be as follows:

  • Loans would only be applicable for apartments in new buildings
  • Loans would only be available to purchase apartments under a specified price limit
  • Loans would only be available to first-time buyers or those who have not owned property in the last five years
  • Loans would only be available to those who cannot make a down payment and are pre-approved
  • A lendee’s mortgage repayments could not be more than 40% of their disposable income

Ten Years Since Iceland Legalised Same-Sex Marriage

It has been ten years since Iceland passed the law that made it legal for same-sex couples to wed, RÚV reports.

Iceland had previously legalised domestic partnerships for same-sex couples in 1996. These partnerships carried the same rights and obligations as marriage. Adoption for same-sex couples was then legalised in 2006.

Former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and her wife, author and playwright Jónína Leósdóttir, were among the first LGBTQ+ couples to wed once the marriage law passed; the couple married the day the new law went into effect. The passage of this law did not, however, remove all hurdles to same-sex couples in Iceland marrying. Indeed, clergy in the National Church of Iceland were legally allowed to refuse same-sex couples on the basis of their personal convictions until 2015.

Iceland was the ninth nation in the world to legalise same-sex marriage; The Netherlands was the first, in 2001, followed by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010). There are currently only 29 countries in which same-sex marriage is legal.

Goðafoss Waterfall Receives Protected Status

Goðafoss waterfall

North Iceland’s Goðafoss waterfall was officially given protected status on Thursday. Designating it as a protected natural site will not only allow for increased safeguarding of geological formations around the waterfall, says the Environment Agency of Iceland, but also protection of the waterfall itself and its source river, Skjálfandafljót.

Revered for its beauty, the horseshoe-shaped Goðafoss is also one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls by volume. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Iceland and is divided into two main falls and several smaller ones. Goðafoss can look considerably different depending on the time of year, water flow, and weather conditions, but, at 9 – 17 meters [30 – 56 ft] high and 30 meters [98 ft] wide, it’s always a stunner.

Photo by Golli

According to legend, Goðafoss—literally meaning ‘fall of the gods’—got its name when Þorgeir Þorkelsson Ljósvetningagoði, a Lawspeaker of Alþingi in 10th century Iceland, threw the statues of the Norse gods into the falls after deciding that Icelanders would convert to Christianity, at least outwardly.

Goðafoss joins a handful of other waterfalls around Iceland that have also been given protected status: Dynjandi in the Westfjords; Hraunfossar and Barnafoss in West Iceland; Skógafoss in South Iceland; and Dettifoss, Selfoss, and Hafragilsfoss in Northern Iceland.

Goðafoss protected status ceremony
Photo by Auðunn Níelsson

Minister for the environment and natural resources Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson signed the official documents at Goðafoss in the company of local government officials, landowners, Environment Agency of Iceland and ministry staff, and locals. Brass quintet Norðangarri played a few songs and coffee was served after the ceremony. On the occasion, the Minister remarked, “Today, we protect one of Iceland’s natural treasures. The protection means that rangers will now take organised care of the area, keep it safe and educate travellers.”