Sponsor a holiday home now? It sounds not only slightly unmusical, but shrillly false. – The daily newspaper

Sponsor a holiday home now? It sounds not only slightly unmusical, but shrillly false. – The daily newspaper
Sponsor a holiday home now? It sounds not only slightly unmusical, but shrillly false. – The daily newspaper

Imagine the following scene: The year is 1814. We are in the Eidsvoll building. 112 of the country’s very, very highest lords have gathered with one goal in mind: To sign the kingdom’s new constitution. As he is about to put the fountain pen to the manuscript, Diderik von Cappelen turns to Peter Blankenborg Prytz and says: “I really think we have covered all the important things! The king’s person, distribution of power, Jews, Jesuits and freedom of the press. A brilliant constitution. But hold on! Wait a minute? Is there really nothing in this document about the state paying for heating the citizens’ cabins? This needs to be corrected, and a bit quickly!».

This must be roughly how the management of the Norwegian Cabin Federation imagines the National Assembly at Eidsvoll to have proceeded. The association has given notice that it is considering legal action against the state, because cabins – unlike secondary homes – are not covered by the government’s scheme for electricity subsidies. They believe that the justification can be found in section 98 of the constitution, which reads:

“Everyone is equal before the law. No person must be subjected to unreasonable or disproportionate discrimination”.

To NRK, the cabin association’s leader Trond Gullik Hagen says that “the state may have broken the law because there is unfair discrimination between secondary homes and holiday homes in the electricity subsidy scheme”.

I assume that he does not really mean that cabins are people who can be discriminated against, so the logic must therefore be something along the lines that treating owners of secondary homes and owners of cabins differently constitutes unfair or disproportionate discrimination.

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As a lawyer, I am, to put it mildly, skeptical of the legal sustainability of such reasoning. Not only because a distinction between secondary homes and holiday homes strikes me as both sensible and proportionate, but also because it is a distinction we have had for a long time without anyone reacting to it.

Distinguishing between secondary housing and holiday homes is not something the government has come up with now that electricity subsidies are to be distributed. The distinction already exists, and is used when determining the assessed value of properties. In 2022, the asset value of secondary homes will be set at 95 per cent of the market value. The corresponding figure for leisure properties is 30 per cent. Oddly enough, I have not seen the Norwegian Cabin Association demand equal treatment on the tax bill.

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On the whole, the cabin association’s complaints appear to be both ill-founded and petty. Read the room, as it is called in good Norwegian. Interest rates are skyrocketing, there is an energy crisis, war in Europe and natural disasters around the world. At the same time, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre warns that we must prepare for a tight state budget. A tight state budget, among other things, because enormous sums are already given in electricity subsidies. And then we’re supposed to spend even more money on sponsoring holiday homes? It sounds not only slightly unmusical, but shrillly false.

Another big difference between secondary homes and cabins is that, by the way, people usually live in secondary homes. In fact, more and more Norwegians are living in rented accommodation, and these are often someone’s secondary home.

The same cannot be said about holiday homes, although there are some scammers who try to move to the cabin in order to get electricity support. But cabins are and will be a luxury good. It may not be luxury standard in your cabin, but your cabin is a luxury. Not only that, but your cabin is also an asset. Something that can be rented out to generate income. A capital asset which is subsequently taxed lower than secondary homes.

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Using tax money to pay cottage electricity bills strikes me as a hugely bad use of money. The power support is here because of an acute crisis. Not being able to use the cabin because it will be too expensive is not an acute crisis. It’s crazy, even real crazy. But not a crisis. And the state can’t pay people out of everything that’s crazy.

The only thing I can think of that is an even worse use of money is to hire lawyers to try to push the cabin’s electricity bill into the Constitution’s protection against discrimination.

In tight and difficult times, we must take seriously the fact that there are many who are struggling, many who find it difficult to pay their bills, many who are looking for ways out.

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Then it seems simply irresponsible of Norway’s Cabin Association to put them on a utopian track about electricity support as a basic right. Taking people’s concerns seriously is not the same as paying lip service to them and offering them unrealistic solutions.

The cabin people have gained a partly undeserved bad reputation in recent years. During the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on those who broke the ban on cabins, but that ban hardly had sufficient authority in law. It is good to demand one’s right, and good to hold the state accountable. But it is far from there to invoke discrimination protection in order to avoid the electricity bill.

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The article is in Norwegian

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