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The Million Homes Programme: a review of the great Swedish planning project

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The first decades of the post-war era saw a large and quickly growing need for new housing. In Sweden, rapid urbanization, growing prosperity and demands for higher housing standards led to years-long housing queues. The housing shortage became a political liability for the ruling Social Democratic party. To end the housing shortage once and for all, the Swedish parliament decided that a million new dwellings should be built in the period 1965 to 1974 and this was achieved. When the Million Homes Programme, as it came to be called, had reached barely half-way, the housing shortage was replaced by a housing surplus, partly caused by the rapid expansion of the housing stock and by the fact that economic growth gave way to stagnation. At the same time, criticism began to be heard about what some people perceived as uniform and poor architecture and, since then, the Million Homes Programme has never ceased to engage people and provoke debate. Most of the buildings and areas of this era have survived quite well with routine maintenance, but in several multifamily housing areas more thoroughgoing measures have been needed. The development patterns can be divided into six categories: everything from maintenance and conventional daily care to large-scale turn-around and demolition. The housing construction of the ‘record years' is typical of its period in modern Swedish history. In the 1960s the ambition was to create an exemplary welfare state – many people no doubt imagined the best in the world – and for this ambition the spacious and ultramodern buildings of the Million Homes Programme were a fitting expression. Sweden had been transformed from a country with a housing shortage to a country with a housing surplus. Today, again facing considerable housing shortage in many growing cities, developing this large housing stock with care for its qualities and its residents, and learning from the mistakes where new developments are needed, are important tasks.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Art History, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: 2005-07-01

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