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Taking their feelings into account

Some people still wish to live in the iconic spisshus-buildings i Lia, while others are more sceptic. Both Longyearbyen's municipal government og Store Norske will continue to use the buildings and will take in to consideration the advise given by experts. FOTO: Anders Fjellestad (arkiv)

Taking their feelings into account

The city and Store Norske haven't changed their policies for the homes at Lia where an avalanche struck last year.



Longyearbyen's municipal government has a so-called "allocation selection" of vacant homes two or three times a year.

"It's usually in spring or autumn that housing becomes available, and then we have a raffle among interested employees for new housing and place new employees in homes out of demand," said Sissel Helen Hultgren, the city's human resources manager.

Taking into account

Tor Selnes and his family (see separate story) is in no way forced to move back into one of the houses at Lia. They chose it themselves. Hultgren said is completely voluntary where people want to live.

"It has always been so that the city takes into account the content of the applications," she said. "The size of the family is the primary factor, but we also take other considerations into account."

Collecting information

"While some clearly do not have problems continuing to stay in the area, others have indicated that they want to get away from the spot where the fatal avalanche struck last year," Hultgren said. "Whatever emotions are surrounding the case, the city pays attention to them."

"We understand and take into account all possible emotions surrounding the avalanche," she said. "But until now there have not been many cases that have raised problematic issues."

The information about what happened in the residential area is freely available and is a natural subject of interest when someone is considering living in a residence there.

Must be used

There has long been a lack of housing in Longyearbyen and the loss of 11 homes did not make the situation any better. There has been no change in the city's practices after the avalanche, which Mayor Arild Olsen (Labor Party) said he believes is justifiable.

"During winter an avalanche warning system will be established again," he said. "It is a much more comprehensive system than what we have had before and several notches better than we have at avalanche-prone places on the mainland. I think it will work well for us. We lean on professionals who have assured us that this is a good and safe solution."

Store Norske in alignment

Some of the homes at Lia are owned by Store Norske. As with the city, the company has not changed its rental practices after the avalanche.

"We will – like other homeowners at Lia, including with regard to information – relate to where the mapping and emergency authorities are coming from as it applies to safety in the area, and the future of the houses and the future of building development," wrote Sveinung Lystrup Thesen, the company's property and administrative manager, in an e-mail to Svalbardposten. "We assume this will mean both parts of developed area that may be abandoned, and early waring and evacuation systems."

Will be surprised

A report assessing what areas of Longyearbyen are safe to live in is expected in about a month from the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate. Olsen said he does not believe it will affect the existing practice for renting the city's homes at Lia.

"It will surprise me if the report goes so far as to say people cannot stay in in the houses next winter, even with an avalanche warning system in place," he said.

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