Biggest Residential Construction Boom Outside of the Capital Since Crash

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There are more apartments under construction outside the capital area than there have been since 2008. Vísir reports that there are currently 2,672 apartments being built outside of Reykjavík, the largest share of which—1,100 units—are located in South Iceland.

These figures come via the latest economic outlook report published by Landsbankinn’s economic department. The report also states that based on figures from Statistics Iceland, it appears that apartment prices both in- and outside of the capital are developing in a similar way, although apartment prices outside of the capital are actually rising faster.

Sales have gone up and prices have risen

There’s been a great deal of demand for housing over the last few years and the economic outlook report says that post-pandemic, low interest rates and changing consumption habits have boosted demand considerably. Sales have gone up and prices have risen.

Since last July, the residential market price index has gone up 22% for single-family homes in the capital area, while multi-family units have gone up by 24%. But the index outside the capital over the last twelve months has gone up even more: 29%.

Taking a broader snapshot of housing price increases across the board: compared to pre-pandemic, in February 2020, the residential market price index has gone up between 45 – 47%, regardless of whether it’s single- or multi-family homes in question, within the capital, or outside of it.

Most new builds in South Iceland, fewest in the East, Northwest, and Westfjords

Construction outside the capital is split pretty evenly between multi-unit and single-family residences. So far this year, there’s been a 12% increase in the number of apartments under construction, as compared to an over 33% increase between the end of 2020 and the early months of 2021. Before that, between 2009 and 2016, very few new apartments entered the real estate market, although there were many under construction.

The greatest proportion of new residential builds outside the capital area are, as mentioned, in South Iceland. The housing stock in the region has gone up by 4% in the last year, amounting to almost 500 new apartments. In the first seven months of this year, the stock increased by 1.7%, or just over 200 new apartments.

The housing stock on the Suðurnes peninsula alone has gone up by 2.5% since the start of the year; in 2021, it went up by almost 2% in the course of the year. This is on par with the increase of housing stock throughout all of North Iceland combined, where 260 new apartments were completed last year.

There are currently 500 apartments under construction on Suðurnes and in West Iceland, around 350 in Northeast Iceland, and fewer than 100 in East Iceland, Northwest Iceland, and the Westfjords.

Grain Farmer Fights Off Swan Invasion with Falcon-Shaped Kites

A farmer in South Iceland is resorting to a unique method to combat a unique threat to his grain crops. RÚV reports that Björgvín Þór Harðarson, a pig and grain farmer in Laxárdalur, is using falcon-shaped kites to scare away the whooper swans that are consuming and causing significant damage to his crops.

Swans are a major threat to grain crops in Iceland but are generally unfazed by farmers’ attempts to ward them off. Björgvín Þór said the birds are definitely the most difficult pests for him to deal with on the farm—and probably the most prolific. When the swans’ numbers are at their peak, he may find as many as 500 swans occupying his fields.

‘When they arrive, it’s just total destruction’

“When they arrive, it’s just total destruction,” he lamented. “If they arrive in a fully mature field in the fall, they’ll walk all over it and eat it and trample all the straw and everything.”

Björgvín Þór has tried many deterrents—including scarecrows and acoustic warning devices, or pingers—but to no avail.

“I was fighting with this swan that was attacking both my barley in the fall and wheat in the spring,” he explained. “Then I tried one of these kites that I’d been told about, and it worked like a charm.”

Falcon Crop Protection, FB

Kites mimic the flight of birds of prey

The kites that Björgvín Þór uses are shaped like falcons and designed to glide in a pattern that mimics the flight of birds of prey. They are used widely within the wine industry as an environmentally friendly and effective form of “bird abatement.” They can also be used on fish farms and to drive away unwanted gulls and crows in urban areas, among other uses.

But as well as the kites work, Björgvín Þór is still careful to use them only sparingly so the swans will not grow accustomed to them or eventually see through the ruse.

He first used the kites in the spring when his wheat crops were growing but has now taken them down because there’s no need at the moment. He’ll fly them again in the fall, during the harvest, and hopes they’ll be enough to keep his voracious whooper nemeses at bay.

Emergency Responders ‘Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst’ Over Merchants’ Weekend

Emergency responders are “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” in advance of the upcoming Merchants’ Weekend holiday, widely known as the biggest travel weekend of the year in Iceland. Fréttablaðið reports that there was a significant increase in calls to Iceland’s emergency line, 112, as well as a 30% increase in incidents involving the police during last year’s holiday weekend, even though all outdoor festivals had been called off due to social distancing regulations.

“We hope that everyone behaves well and has a good time and doesn’t drive under the influence,” said Tómas Gíslason, assistant director of the 112 emergency line. “Naturally, we expect there to be traffic and emergency responders all around the country are ready.”

The weekend’s biggest festival, the Westman Islands’ Þjóðhátíð, will take part in a largescale collaboration between the 112 emergency line and the office of the National Police Commissioner, which aims to prevent violence in the course of nightlife, music, and other entertainment events. As part of the collaboration, Tómas says there’s been targeted training this summer to help staff better respond to incidents of violence.

The ultimate goal, he continues, would be to have zero incidents of violence reported over the holiday weekend, but Tómas is careful to frame this goal in a more nuanced way. “The goal is naturally zero reports, but still 100% reporting of incidents that need to be reported. We don’t want any incidents of violence anywhere, but if someone misbehaves, then it must be reported,” he said.

Iceland’s National Emergency Line, 112, operates 24 hours a day, anywhere in the country. You can either call the number on your phone or access the webchat, here. You can also download the 112 app, which allows you to access 112 from your phone without calling. You can speak in English on the phone line and the webchat. Resources about violence of all stripes, including abuse in close relationships, human trafficking, child welfare, online safety, and more are available on the 112 website in Icelandic, English, and Polish.

Organizers Shovel Snow from Mountain Path in Advance of Summer Trail Running Event

The Súlur Vertical trail-running event will take place on mountain slopes outside of Akureyri, North Iceland this weekend. RÚV reports that organizers and volunteers have been hard at work preparing the trails, even manually shovelling snow on the uppermost slopes of Mt. Hlíðarfjall in order to carve out a running path for the longest race.

This is the seventh time Súlur Vertical has been held and participation is higher than ever been before, with 556 people registered to take part in three races of increasing distances: 18 km [11 mi], 28 km [17 mi], and 55 km [34 mi]. The longest race includes a section on Mt. Hlíðarfjall and a 3000-m [1.86-mi] elevation gain (earning 3 points with the International Trail Running Association).

Súlur Vertical, FB

“This section has been impassable due to snow since the winter,” read a Facebook post about the organizers’ trail-clearing efforts on Tuesday. “But many hands, shovels, ( and chainsaws!) made for light work and [this stretch] shouldn’t be much of an obstacle this weekend.” Súlur Vertical director Þorbergur Ingi Jónsson later clarified that the chainsaws were used to break through hard-packed ice along the trail and said the whole process took only a few hours. “When you have such a powerful group, projects like this one are no problem.”

“This also opens one of the most popular mountain trails around Akureyri to the general public and we welcome that,” he wrote in Tuesday’s post, “as one of the goals of the Súlur Vertical organization is to promote outdoor activity and physical activity in the area.”

Súlur Vertical, FB

The weather forecast isn’t looking promising for the coming weekend, and there’s even the possibility of snow in the mountains. But Þorbergur isn’t discouraged. “We’ll just make the best of the conditions and we’ve got plenty of hot cocoa and things like that.”

Learn more about Súlur Vertical (in English) here.