MSc Architecture, Royal Institute of Technology
Year 1, Spring 2023
Housing Studio, individual work
Using Timothy Blackwell's article 'Power, production, and disorder; The decline of Sweden's housing industrial complex and the origins of the present housing discontents' (2021), I wrote an analytical text as part of the studio work in Housing Studio to form a better understanding of the various happenings in Sweden over the years and how they have affected the housing market of today. 
Key statement: The Million Programme resulted in many of the greatest housing and finance system changes which led to the worsening of the housing market in Sweden’s biggest cities in terms of affordability, equality, and integration.

Today, the rental housing shortage in Sweden has reached crisis levels and Sweden’s big cities have become some of the most segregated in Europe. It is often assumed that this is a result of the 1990s banking crisis and the neoliberal policies promoting marketisation, worsening housing affordability, socio-spatial inequalities, segregation, and privatised planning. However, Timothy Blackwell argues that it was the Million Programme housing model that led to a market worsening, and that the banking crisis was more of a formal confirmation of an ongoing process rather than its cause.
The Million Programme housing system sought to construct one million housing units in a span of 10 years and was said to be one of the best in terms of access, cost, and quality. Several actions were taken to achieve this building effort; rigorous financial controls were deployed, and housing production was to large extents assisted by state loans. The result was an oversupply of housing by the early 70’s, construction driven by neither need nor demand, but by private interests.
Municipalities saw investments in property for promoting regional growth and increasing tax base and used their planning powers to drive property development. They also choose to build in areas where land was cheaper, ultimately increasing segregation. Construction companies had more power over what was being built and where, and were increasingly setting the housing agenda. Following the programme, the housing production decreased rapidly, and the ROT programme was created for construction companies to undertake repairs, conversion and extension work. This led to many questionable and expensive investments, described as a social and economic disaster for vulnerable groups.
The housing provided throughout the programme received critique and dissatisfaction immediately after its completion; it was claimed to be repetitive, uniform, and grey. Modernism had its fall during the Million Programme, starting in 1966, only a couple of years after the Programme began. The architectural style was changing, but the construction of the modernist neighbourhoods continued. 
The demand for rented Million Programme-era apartments collapsed in the early 70’s, while there was an increased demand for existing inner-city apartments. Apartment blocks in inner-city Stockholm was bought up by real estate companies, with a view of renovating them, reducing running costs, and then increasing rents. This eventually caused political outrage, the Social Democrats was replaced as the leading party after over 40 years, and a number of system changes were made to keep rents down. However, loopholes were found, and investors would now convert rental buildings into cooperative ownerships, which flourished and soon became common practice in Sweden. Thus, the neoliberalisation of housing is Sweden existed before the 90’s banking crisis.
To conclude, the housing crisis we find in Sweden today is a result of several factors and happenings connected over time, not one event that ended in a catastrophe. The regulatory and subsidy frameworks for housing that had been rapidly put in place throughout the Million Programme to meet sharp increases in demand, had been fatally undermined by the 80’s. The state’s generous spending over several years, along with other factors, eventually reached saturation point and ended with a banking crisis.
It can be argued that there was too much of the 'wrong' type of housing in the 'wrong' places. The state, municipalities and construction companies supported the steady supply of the modernist housing even after surpluses had been identified for their own private interests, leading to an unsustainable housing boom. Areas that were previously not segregated, now was. The residents of the Million programme housing, commonly lower-income households and immigrants, were victims of bad planning and are today assumed to be ‘bad people’ because of the segregated areas they live in. 

Timeline (Gatland, 2023)

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