Getty Images/Andreas Rentz
In the summer of 2017, IKEA employees living in Reykjavik, Iceland may come home to apartments that look just like the retailer they left.
The Swedish furniture giant announced in April that it is building housing for a lucky few employees so that they have an affordable place to live near work. The 34-unit apartment building will be partially furnished with products straight from the IKEA showroom, and will be located within walking distance of the IKEA store in Reykjavik.
Thor Aevarsson, country manager of IKEA Iceland, tells Business Insider that the apartments will be tiny, ranging from 269 square feet to 613 square feet.
“Since IKEA is the king of small-space living, we decided to walk the talk and show people that we could replicate the small apartments that you will see in any IKEA store [around] the world,” Aevarsson said.
The company is putting its interior designers to work creating the apartments, each of which will feature a full kitchen, living room, balcony, and a washer and dryer. Most units will be fully furnished with IKEA furniture, except a few to serve those who already have their own stuff.
“Our interior designers have gotten the challenge of making sure that no two apartments will be the same,” said Aevarsson, adding that the paint colors, flooring, lighting fixtures, and furniture will vary in each apartment. “The total look and final result should speak strong IKEA language.”
The cost of buying or renting a home in Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, has skyrocketed in the last several years. Thanks in part to a boom in tourism, property prices shot up 14% in 2016. The red-hot housing market has made it difficult for some IKEA employees to find decent accommodations at reasonable prices, according to Aevarsson.
Most Icelandic employees live within one hour of travel from the store. But many of them share small spaces with large groups of people, Aeversson said. Some live in housing originally built for commercial or light industry facilities and are located in non-residential areas.
The three dozen units at IKEA’s apartment will go for as little as 100,000 krona ($889) a month, which is little more than half the average rental price for a one-bedroom flat in Reykjavik’s city center, BBC reports.
The company is able to price the apartments below market rate in part because they are so small. Aevarsson said he hopes the apartments, which he calls high-end even though IKEA makes budget furniture, will inspire other housing developers to embrace the micro-apartment movement.
“We have set the benchmark high for others to follow, which hopefully leads to a higher standard of housing,” he said.
The news comes on the heels of a highly publicized investigation from BBC in March that found truck drivers moving goods in Western Europe for IKEA are living out of their cabs for months at a time. The drivers worked for subcontractors, rather than the furniture company itself, and were paid well below the minimum wage in many of the European countries where they drove.
Aevarsson sees affordable housing as a no-brainer for the company.
“As in any IKEA business, our coworkers are our most important asset,” Aevarsson said. “If you have happy coworkers and low staff turnover, half the battle is already won. Proper housing, being one of life’s core essentials, plays a major role there.”
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