Access to Mt. Skessuhorn Not to Be Restricted, Despite Sale

Borgarfjörður, mountain

A spokesperson for the Canadian couple who purchased the property Horn in Skorradalur, West Iceland, has told Fréttablaðið that access to Mt. Skessuhorn – which lies within the property – will not be restricted. Anyone who wants to hike on the mountain may continue to do so.

Concerns over possible restrictions

Earlier this week, Fréttablaðið reported that a Canadian businessman (who is said to have made his fortune in tech) had acquired the property Horn in Skorradalur, West Iceland. The estate includes the renowned Mt. Skessuhorn and is home to three fishing rivers: Hornsá, Álfsteinsá, and Andakílsá.

Read More: To the Vote (Municipal Elections in Skorradalur) from IR magazine

Last May, the property was listed for sale. It sold within four days at a price exceeding the initial asking price of ISK 145 million ($1 million / €9720,000). As per Fréttablaðið, construction permits were granted in February for two edifices on the property: a capacious 1,000-square metre private residence, and a 700-square metre guesthouse, inclusive of a gymnasium.

After news of the sale went public, the chair of Samút – an association of outdoor recreation clubs in Iceland – stated that, although the news did not come as a surprise, he harboured concerns that foreign parties who purchased land in Iceland, and who are often seeking seclusion, would restrict access to their properties.

Access not restricted, spokesperson claims

Halldór Kristjánsson – CEO of the destination management company Nordic Luxury, and agent of the Canadian couple who bought Horn – told Fréttablaðið that the buyers did not intend on restricting access to Skessuhorn; the couple simply planned to erect a private residence on the property.

“Anyone who wants to walk on this mountain can continue doing so,” Halldór stated, adding that public rights would be duly honoured. The only thing that the couple would comment on, Halldór observed, was if people arrived in large groups and parked their vehicles outside the couple’s residence. He emphasised that the couple had no intentions of imposing any travel restrictions whatsoever and remarked that the public discussion had been blown out of proportion.

In conclusion, Halldór affirmed that the couple had no intention of utilizing the land for tourism-related activities. “They plan to build a residence for their own private use for a significant portion of the year,” he stated. He further noted that while the possibility of renting out some of the buildings existed, no decisions had been made yet. “At present, there are no proposals for any other form of development apart from private housing on the premises.”

This article was updated at 01:54 PM.

Difficult for First-Time Buyers to Enter Housing Market

iceland real estate

According to a real-estate developer in the capital area, the process of selling apartments has lengthened considerably as compared to the autumn. Last fall, every unit in one of the developer’s buildings was purchased over a single weekend. Presently, however, a nearby building of similar design has only seen three units sold. None of the purchasers were first-time buyers.

No first-time buyers

As noted by RÚV, two similar buildings stand side by side on Kinnargata in Garðabær. Units within one of the buildings went on sale last fall; apartments in the other building went on sale at the beginning of the year. Developer Eggert Elfar Jónsson told the national broadcaster that when his company started selling apartments in the first building last September, all of the units were sold over a single weekend (the following Monday, they had received 30 offers for all 15 of the apartments – and all the units were subsequently sold.)

“And then we have another building that was ready six months later,” Eggert stated. “And we put the units on sale in late February, early March. There were maybe 20 to 25 groups that attended the open house. We received eight offers – but only three were accepted.”

Eggert described his surprise at learning that none of those who had bought an apartment in the two buildings were “first-time buyers,” especially considering the size of the apartments. He believes that fewer and fewer people are being approved by the bank’s payment evaluation system. “Interest rates have been rising continuously, and these two things [i.e. rising interest rates, which lead to stricter payment evaluations] are just pushing this group completely out of the market,” Eggert observed.

A simmering pot

As noted in the Central Bank’s recently-published Financial Stability report, the finances of households and companies in Iceland are deteriorating due to high inflation and higher interest rates. “The outlook is for inflation to be stubbornly high and debt service burdens to grow heavier,” the report reads. The Central Bank will announce its decision on whether or not to further raise the interest rate on Wednesday.

Eggert told RÚV that 3,500 new apartments must be brought onto the market every year to meet demand, although, as it stands, it looks as if far fewer will be constructed: “They’re putting a lid on this simmering pot. But if the market, generally speaking, calls for 3,500 apartments, and if first-time buyers are currently being kept away, it’s only right to expect the demand to double after some time or some months,” Eggert concluded.

PM: Weapons Amendment Required Greater Consultation

Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has stated that despite the Parliamentary Commissioner (i.e. Ombudsman) concluding that the Minister of Justice had been guilty of poor administrative practices (in his decision to green-light the adoption of electroshock weapons by the police), that assessment did not affect the latter’s position within the government. The PM remains of the opinion, however, that the matter should have received a more thorough review from the government, RÚV reports.

Commissioner finds fault

In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, the Parliamentary Commissioner (i.e. Ombudsman) maintained that the Minister of Justice had been guilty of a lack of consultation by changing regulations to authorise the use of electroshock weapons among police. The amendment had not been in accordance with “good administrative practices.”

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobdóttir told RÚV yesterday that the issue ought to have been discussed at a cabinet meeting prior to parliamentary deliberations. “I maintain that this would have been the appropriate course of action, particularly since this represents a policy shift,” commented Katrín, who has not altered her stance on this matter.

As noted by RÚV, the Minister of Justice disagrees with the commissioner’s assessment, contending that the amendment did not mark a substantial alteration to regulations governing the use of weapons among police officers. Furthermore, the Minister asserts that the amendment had been discussed in a cabinet meeting two weeks prior to his signing of the regulation. Katrín believes that the amendment required greater consultation:

“The purview of the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice, and as such, it’s his prerogative to modify the regulations,” Katrín told RÚV. However, given her view that the amendment represented a shift in policy, the PM maintains that it ought to have been subjected to greater government scrutiny prior to the Minister of Justice’s endorsement.

Katrín is currently considering the Commissioner’s suggestion that there is a need to draw up clearer rules for the government’s practices, or to revise the code of conduct, in order to prevent such cases from arising again. The issue, however, did not affect “the Minister’s position within the government” nor her “trust in him.”

Substitute MP Quits Left-Greens After Immigration Bill Passes

Iceland's Althing

After the Minister of Justice’s immigration bill was approved Wednesday, substitute MP and former executive director of the Left-Green Movement, Daníel E. Arnarsson resigned from the party. He does not intend to take a seat in parliament again even if he were to be called in.

Controversial immigration bill passes

Yesterday, Daníel E. Arnarsson, the executive director of the National Queer Association of Iceland and substitute MP, took to Facebook to announce his resignation from the Left-Green Movement. The decision was made in light of his party’s support for Justice Minister Jón Gunnarsson’s immigration bill, which was approved by a parliamentary majority on Wednesday.

With the exception of Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir, who were both absent, all members of the Left-Green Party voted in favor of the bill; numerous amendments were proposed, but none were accepted.

“Last night, the Minister of Justice’s immigration bill was approved, a bill that many human rights and aid organisations have fought against, as it restricts the rights of one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in our society: people seeking international protection. It is not without reason that the bill met with such strong opposition,” Daníel wrote.

No politics without responsibility

In his statement, Daníel reflected on his campaign for the primary election of the Left-Green Movement in 2021, during which he advocated for a more compassionate stance on immigration. “One of my key campaign pledges was to prioritize a more humane approach to immigration, and I was fortunate enough to garner the support of many like-minded individuals who shared this conviction,” he shared. “For this unwavering support, I will be forever grateful.”

He added that he had resigned from the party only a few minutes after the bill was passed: “There is no politics without responsibility, and I find myself grappling with this responsibility at present. Despite my efforts to impede its progression, the passage of this bill was ultimately unavoidable. As such, I must take ownership of a certain level of accountability. As soon as the Left-Green Party members voted in favor of the bill, I made the decision to step down from the movement. My resignation was, however, not entirely motivated by this sense of disillusionment.”

Heavy steps

As noted in his post, Daníel devoted seventeen years to the Left-Green Movement, which he views not simply as a political organization but as a family – the people who raised him: “This is why my actions weigh heavily upon me. I hold a deep affection for the members of the Left-Greens, but I am unable to align myself with a movement that condones the curtailment of fundamental rights for one of society’s most vulnerable groups.”

Finally, Daníel stated that even though he was a democratically-elected substitute MP for the party, he did not intend to take a seat in parliament if called in again; instead, he would refer to the next person on the party’s list in his constituency.

As noted by Vísir, Daníel took third place on the list of the Left Greens in the southern district of the Reykjavík constituency for the 2021 elections. Two of those on the Left Green’s list – Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir and Orri Páli Jóhannsson – were awarded seats in Parliament.

Another Left-Green member resigns

Yesterday, it was also reported that Elva Hrönn Hjartardóttir, a former member of the board of the Left-Green Movement, and vice chair in Reykjavík, had resigned from the party. She stated that she refused to be identified with a movement that “accepted the human-rights violations entailed in the newly-approved immigration bill”

This article was updated at 08:48 AM