Not another commuter town

10.05.2022 - 14:04
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Elsa María Guðlaugs Drífudót - RÚV
There are many different issues on voters’ minds leading up to the 14th May local elections, and the issues vary by municipality. RÚV English will investigate a few different issues, in a few different municipalities.

Today, we look at Akranes, where the candidates standing agree that economic development is key in the wake of the construction of new homes and a growing population. Akranes needs jobs and amenities to maintain its identity and not merely become a commuter town for the capital. With one new pre-school currently under construction, a second new one could soon be needed. 

Akraneskaupstaður is home to nearly 8,000 people; growing by around two percent in two years. It has a nine-person council, currently comprised of three Samfylkingin (Social Democrat) councillors and two Framsóknarflokkurinn og frjálsar (Progressive Party and independents) in the majority, with four Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (Independence Party) councillors in opposition. All three parties have candidate lists in this week’s election. 

More big houses 

There has been a lot of development in Akranes, but candidate Líf Lárusdótir (Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn) says there is a notable shortage of plots for detached houses and blocks of large apartments in the town. Families are therefore not well-catered-to. She says her party also wants to map out the status of rental housing in the town, with the aim of planning further than just four years into the future. 

Ragnar Baldvin Sæmundsson (Framsóknarflokkurinn & frjálsar) reminds that at the start of the current term there was a lack of small flats for first time buyers. In the next issue of building plots, though, there will be a lot of space for detached and terraced houses. On the site of the former state-run cement works, for example, new houses will rise, including some large homes. He believes the gap is being bridged. Ragnar says the council has performed well in developing local infrastructure, including pre-schools and sports facilities. 

Valgarður Lyngdal Jónsson (Samfylkingin), who is council leader at the moment, says his party prioritises not-for-profit rental housing in order to keep housing costs down, but adds that the state needs to work with municipalities in this area. 

Need a third pre-school 

Líf says the time is approaching for Akranes to decide whether it needs a third pre-school—possibly linked to the new primary school. The town’s second pre-school is currently under construction and a third will likely be needed soon. Both new schools could be linked closely to primary school services. Rather than building a brand-new primary school, Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn wants to optimise the schools already available, and maybe even bring the youngest two years of school into the pre-school infrastructure instead. 

Valgarður says this is similar to the wishes of Samfylkingin, as building a ten-year primary school in one go is a very major investment, meaning it is potentially much more efficient to connect the youngest school years to the pre-schools—or to build a new primary school just for young children and develop its upper years over time. 

Employment at the fore 

A sizeable proportion of Akranes residents work in Reykjavík and commute every day. All parties agree that economic development is therefore paramount in the coming years. 

Valgarður says Akranes is growing fast and the local economy will largely dictate whether it manages to remain an independent entity, or develops more into a suburb community which empties in the daytime. That would not be an enticing prospect, and so the offering of jobs in Akranes must keep up with population growth. Development of the green business district just outside the town is important in this regard. 

Líf says there is a need for companies within the town, and to grow and develop those that already exist. The local authorities can also talk with businesses considering moving, and try to convince them to choose Akranes. Akranes needs to take the initiative to attract companies. 

There is a large degree of agreement among the parties and Ragnar says all parties agree that the number of jobs in Akranes must keep pace with population growth. Alongside the green business district, the town should also support lone-traders, he says; for example, at the innovation development centre at Breið, where a hundred people work at the moment.

For more information on the local elections this May, see the Multicultural Information Centre’s dedicated election page, here. Information from the government is here. And you can find out whether, and where, you can vote by entering your kennitala here. RÚV English will compile all Election 2022 news on this page

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