Hytte owners demand democracy

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Owners of vacation homes (hytter) in Norway are calling for an end to what they see as a violation of their democratic rights: Taxation without representation. They feel there is no democracy in the areas where their hytter are located, because they’re not allowed to vote in local elections.

Hytte owners like those here in Lunner Kommune, north of Oslo, are charged property tax but can't vote in local elections. PHOTO: Views and News

As thousands of Norwegians huddle at their hytter for autumn holiday (høstferie) this week, many are acutely aware they have no say in issues on the local political agenda. Many have been hit with property tax on their vacation properties without being allowed to vote for the local politicians that put it in place. Others are opposed to construction of windmills or power lines or even new hytte developments, but have no way of making their voices heard. Still others want improvements to the ski- or hiking trails networks around their properties, but have no means of pressuring local politicians to take more responsibility.

That’s because Norwegians are only allowed to vote in the municipality where they live, not in the areas where they also have invested in vacation property. Halvor Stormoen, leader of the national vacation home association Norges Hytteforbund, told newspaper Aftenposten recently that this threatens democratic rights.

“A home today isn’t just one place but maybe several homes,” Stormoen told Aftenposten. “But the Norwegian system is based on folks living in just one place, even though we’re part-year residents somewhere else. We have no democratic rights in the hytte areas. Our democracy is out of step with the community we in fact have.”

Eivind Brenna, a politician for the Liberal Party (Venstre) in the popular hytte community of Vestre Slidre agrees that hytte owners should get some form of voting rights where they own property. “There must be a way to offer some influence for them,” he told Aftenposten. “They should be heard.”

Knut Nes lives in Bærum west of Oslo but spends several months a year at his hytte in Nord-Aurdal in Valdres. It’s one of 44 political jurisdictions in Norway that has more hytter than homes, and also has levied property tax on hytte owners, and Nes is tired of feeling like “an exploited idiot.”

“Nord-Aurdal is a considerable trade and service municipality, thanks largely to the large number of vacation homes (4,188 according to state statistics bureau SSB),” Nes told Aftenposten. “We hytte owners have contributed to (economic) activity and revenue much higher than what local residents would generate. Nonetheless we shouldn’t have anything to say. We just pay tax.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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