The Housing Crisis On Svalbard Explained

Norway’s remote arctic island Svalbard houses lots of incredible job opportunities filled to the brim with unique experiences. Many people dream of living on Svalbard, but the current housing crisis on Svalbard makes it very difficult for most.

But what’s the deal with the housing crisis on Svalbard, and how did it get there? Let’s take a closer look at all you need to know about Svalbard’s current housing crisis, and how you can get a place to live on the island.

There are very few houses for sale or rent on Svalbard, and very strict regulations prevent building of new ones without a long, political process that lasts for years. This has lead to a huge housing shortage, and extreme housing prices.

Homes on Svalbard
Homes in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Photo by Peter Vermeij, published with permission.

Most people who live on Svalbard rents a place to live from their employer, and very few people own their own home.

Are there are homes for rent or sale on Svalbard?

There are a few apartments or houses that are offered for rent or sale on the private market, but these are very rare to come across.

You will probably find it very difficult to find an apartment to rent or buy on your own, and you should be prepared to spend some time and effort to get this done. As a matter of fact, there is a total of 0 apartments or houses for rent on Svalbard as of the moment I’m writing this article!

There’s a reason why it’s called a housing crisis after all, and there are people who have been looking for a place to live on Svalbard for multiple years before finally getting their hands on a lease.

Svalbard housing prices

The housing prices on Svalbard are insanely high, and a single 3 bedroom apartment can easily cost 5 million Norwegian kroner ($500,000 USD).

Expect to pay around 70,000 to 80,000 NOK per square meter for a regular apartment.

The high prices are so high simply because of high demand, combined with huge expenses for the actual building process. People are willing to pay a lot to be able to buy a place to live, and this has driven the housing prices to skyrocket over the years.

Buying a house on Svalbard is without a doubt the easiest way to get a place to live on the island (unless your employer have an apartment for rent), so saving up to buy a home is a good idea if you dream of relocating to Svalbard.

Longyearbyen on Svalbard
Longyearbyen on Svalbard. Photo published with permission.

Why there are virtually zero apartments for rent or sale on Svalbard

There are a few big hurdles that makes it very difficult and expensive to build houses and apartments on Svalbard, which has over time lead to the big housing crisis.

One of the issues is that there’s a lot of paperwork involved for anyone who wants to build a house, cabin or apartment building on Svalbard. The process can take multiple years, and it’s difficult to find a suitable place to build.

But the even bigger problem is the actual cost of building on Svalbard. All materials (and to a certain extent also labor) needs to be imported from mainland Norway. The arctic climate makes it both difficult to build, and the materials required for the buildings are more expensive than materials needed to build a house in warmer climate.

Building houses and apartment buildings on Svalbard often cost more money than they are expected to earn, which means that it’s simply not viable to just build more houses on the island.

Additionally, the Norwegian government owns most of the land on Svalbard, and they have strict regulations to selling it, so it’s a bit of a hassle to even be able to buy land to build on.

Most people only spend a few years on Svalbard before they move on to someplace else, which means that they stand to lose money if they want to build a house, and the long process even makes it unlikely that the house is even finished before they are moving somewhere else.

This means that most individuals who build houses are those who intend to stay on Svalbard for a very long time, but these houses won’t appear on the private housing market anytime soon anyway.

The Norwegian government is building apartment buildings every once in a while, but they are facing issues with building enough apartments to face the current demand for them. They opened a lot of new apartments in 2021, and are currently planning to make even more.

Homes on Svalbard.

How to buy a place to live on Svalbard

Anyone can buy a house on Svalbard if they find one that’s for sale, and the proccess is pretty much the same as buying a house in mainland Norway. There are few legal requirements to owning a house on Svalbard as long as you can pay for it.

What this means is that you go to, click on “Bolig til salgs”, then click on Svalbard. Or click on this link to get taken directly to all houses and apartments for sale on Svalbard.

Once there, find any potential houses you might be interested in buying, then get in touch with the real estate agent to set up a viewing or make an offer.

Sounds easy enough, but it’s obviously a process that takes a bit of time. Most people will need a mortgage to finance buying a house in this price range, which is going to be difficult if you’re a foreigner who want a loan from a Norwegian bank.

There are usually only a few houses and apartments for sale on Svalbard at any given time, so it’s not like you have a lot of options unless you’re very patient. And act fast if you find one you like, because they might get snagged up by someone else very quickly.

Homes on Svalbard.
Homes on Svalbard.

How to rent a place to live on Svalbard

Many employers have apartments for their employees

It’s very common for companies to own or have long-term leases on apartments on Svalbard, and offer their employers to use these for cheap or for free as part of the work contract. This is especially true for those who are employing seasonal workers in the summer months.

This is often a pretty nice deal for both parties. Not only can you accept a job without all the hassle of finding a place to live, but it’s also often on the cheaper side. The employer benefits since they can be 100 % sure that the person they employ will end up actually getting to Svalbard and having a place to stay there.

You will often find that it’s specified that apartments are included on the job listing when you’re applying for jobs on Svalbard.

Rent an apartment on Svalbard on your own

Finding a place to rent on Svalbard is done the same way’s as for the rest of Norway. We have a detailed article to finding a place to rent in Norway, so check it out.

The short summary for finding a place to rent on Svalbard is:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Eiendom.
  3. Click on Bolig til leie.
  4. Click on Svalbard under the area marked as Område.

If you cannot find Svalbard on the list under Område, it just means that there are zero apartments for rent at Svalbard at the moment. This is actually quite common.

But if there are apartments for sale, you should just contact the seller to get in touch with them. There are actually not that many hurdles to jump across if you actually manage to sign a contract to the apartment, other than those who apply for anyone who want to live on Svalbard.

The problem is that the person who is renting out the apartment will get dozens, or sometimes hundreds of requests. So you need a bit of luck to be the one who actually get’s to sign the lease.

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