Harder times spur rehab boom

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Oslo officials say they intend to take advantage of newly idled construction workers, and launch a barrage of rehabilitation projects in 2009.
The boom in municipal spending is also aimed at fending off a rising unemployment rate.
Erling Lae (pictured right), the head of Oslo’s city government (byråd), told newspaperAftenposten that the city will spend as much as NOK 11 billion (nearly USD 1.6 billion) on rehabilitation of schools, churches and athletic facilities in 2009 alone.
In doing so, the city government is taking an approach similar to that of politicians at the state level, who also promise more public works projects to offset a severe slowdown in the construction industry.
Norway had been enjoying an oil-fuelled economic boom, with all the building activity that entailed, until the global financial crisis took hold last autumn. Suddenly the construction boom of recent years ground to a halt, and the building industry now faces widespread layoffs as new projects are delayed or cancelled.
Just last year it was almost impossible for the city to attract bidders for jobs like the refurbishment of rapid transit stations and other public property. That’s expected to change now.The city invited building industry officials to an information meeting just before Christmas to outline Oslo’s ambitious “building package.” Lae calls it a “win-win” situation for the industry and the city.
“This is much more than just a single crisis package,” Lae told Aftenposten, adding that the city’s investment budget is record high and the industry response has been “enormous.”
Among the projects planned by the city are improvements to the transit line to Holmenkollen, construction of 36 new day care centers, rehabilitation of several churches and new sewer lines.
By Nina Berglund