Arnarlax secures new homes for its rural workers at Bíldudalur, Iceland

The Icelandic salmon farmer adds to the debate on lack of housing in remote areas, saying more homes are needed in Bíldudalur, Iceland.
Small fishing village of Patreksfjordur located in the Westfjords, Iceland. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Small fishing village of Patreksfjordur located in the Westfjords, Iceland. Photo: Adobe Stock.

Bíldudalur is home to only 200 people, but the tiny fishing town on the west coast of Iceland is also the headquarters of the country's foremost salmon producer, Arnarlax. Employing almost 130 workers, Arnarlax has drawn attention to the lack of affordable housing in the area, with many employees living up to 50 kilometres away from their workplaces.

Arnarlax has taken a significant step to help its workers find affordable local accommodation, securing the construction of a ten-apartment building near the seafront in Bíldudalur.

"We must try to get more apartments for people in the area. It is extremely important," said Arnarlax CEO Björn Hembre, commenting on the development for local news outlet Visir.

The building will be the largest constructed in Bíldudalur in almost half a century. Arnarlax joined forces with the Vesturbyggð municipality to lobby for the new homes, and locals express hopes that a similar project will soon be developed due to a high demand for housing.

Bíldudalur's population is growing as its primary industries expand, with Arnarlax's fish farming and processing operations as the main employer, together with Íslenska Kalkþörungafélagið (Icelandic Calcareous Algae Society, or Islenska Kalk for short), which processes naturally-ocurring red algae for nutritional supplements. Islenska Kalk had an eight-apartment house built in the town five years ago, but Arnarlax has grown to become the most numerous workplace, leading to demand for more homes.

The ten fully-furnished apartments are expected to be ready at the end of June 2023, and will either be sold on the market or offered for rent.

"This is the best lot in town, said Hembre. "This is a very beautiful place, and there is space for more apartments. It will hopefully be the next step that we continue to build."

Homes for aquaculture workers in remote areas have been in the headlines recently, with Salmon Scotland CEO Tavish Scott lobbying for the Scottish Government to release funds for housing to enable workers and their families to access affordable homes in the areas they are most needed.

"The impact of a lack of affordable housing cannot be underestimated," said Scott at the Rural Housing Scotland conference last Friday. "It means not being able to live near where you work, it separates families and contributes to the depopulation of our island communities."

The situation in Iceland is similar. "There is a great need, especially here in Bíldudalur," said Hembre. "Many employees live in Tálknafjörður and Patreksfjörður who would like to live in Bíldudalur. There is therefore still a great need for apartments."

About Arnarlax

Arnarlax has its headquarters and harvesting plant in Bíldudalur in Iceland's Westfjords region, close to the sea farms located in the surrounding fjords. In addition, the company has three smolt facilities – one in the Westfjords and two just south of Reykjavik, as well as a sales office in Reykjavik.

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