The Social Democrats in the city of Valdemarsvik, Sweden, has come up with a brilliant idea. Let’s charge owners of holiday houses (that aren’t registered as residents of the city) 4,000 SEK a year without giving anything in return. Lars Beckman who is the brain behind the suggestion thinks that such a fee would not discourage anyone. To the contrary he says that people would probably have sympathy for such a move.
Since we happen to have a house in Valdemarsvik I feel I have the right to opine. And my response is – this is ridiculous. Beckman argues that the city has costs for holiday residents regarding water, sanitation, roads, electricity and “vård”, which I suppose means health care.
I have no trouble to pay for services that I use, but it is hard for me to see the legitimacy in charging for the services stated above. Let’s take a closer look at our own expenses for these services:
Water: we spent 60,000 SEK this summer to drill our own well. We do not use any part of the municipal water system.
Sanitation: we spent several tens of thousand SEK to build our own sewer system. We do not use the municipal system.
Roads: we spent 60,000 SEK to build a road to our property since there wasn’t any road. About ten houses spent that much each. Apart from that, of course we use the roads in the city, just as we use it in Söderköping, Norrköping or any other town we happen to travel through. It’s not like we drive around incessantly.
Electricity: former owners of our house paid a hefty fee to connect electricity to the property.
Health care: have not used any local facilities yet (knock on wood).
The situation for the other 2,200 holiday houses in the city of course varies, but I expect they all already pay a municipal fee for the services they use. At least do we get a bill every year for waste disposal, for example.
On top of that, we have only used local entrepreneurs in all of these projects (except for the well, which was from a nearby town). And, we have built a new house, using only local entrepreneurs. What Valdemarsvik needs is not to scare away summer residents with illegitemate fees but instead welcome and encourage tourism. I heard one local real estate agent claim that today one out of three summer houses are sold to people living in Stockholm. When they spend time in Valdemarsvik they will also spend money to the benefit of the entire city. The local grocery store in Gryt has been forced to close during off season because of low sales. Perhaps a strong holiday season driven by increased tourism could give enough revenue to stop further decline. Take a holistic view and look at both revenues and costs from summer residents.
What you see below is not a summer house. It is an income source for Valdemarsvik. Don’t tax it to death.
Footnote: Fortunately, the parliament has not yet given the municipalities the right to charge fees on property without any counterperformance.