Mapping Politics and Navigating Responsibility

Lex Bollmora

 

Linnea Fröjd

During the first half of the 20th century, the housing queue in Stockholm was overcrowded. Just like today, the lack of homes was extensive. In the 1950s, politicians in Stockholm began to pursue a hard-line land policy. In twelve years, they bought over 30,000 acres of land in surrounding municipalities through the company AB Strada. The local politicians were often unaware of these land acquisitions.

In 1959, Lex Bollmora was adopted—a new law initiated by Hjalmar Mehr, the main actor in the radical modernization of Stockholm. This new law made it possible for one municipality to build within the boundaries of another municipality. This meant that the city of Stockholm, through its previously purchased land reserves, could now build housing in the sparsely populated surrounding municipalities.
The name Lex Bollmora comes from the fact that it was in Bollmora, in Tyresö, south-east of Stockholm, where Stockholm’s municipal housing companies built their first apartments outside their own municipality. The law opened up for a completely new modernization project. The city of Stockholm built almost 16,000 apartments within the framework of Lex Bollmora. These apartments were then populated by people from the city of Stockholm’s housing queue or by those who lived in old-fashioned inner city apartments in need of renovation.

Without Lex Bollmora, urban development in the Stockholm region would have been completely different, and the Million Program (1965-1975) would have been difficult to implement in its current form. Since the mid 1990s, the Lex Bollmora stock has been gradually divested from public utility over a 25-year period. Some properties have become tenant-owner associations and others have gone from one owner to another. No one seems to take long-term responsibility for these properties. Today, the Lex Bollmora stock is undergoing extensive and much-debated renovation, making it a highly topical example.

Lex Bollmora was primarily the work of politicians, but it was implemented by planners and architects. As an urban planner I am a part of the realization of today’s housing policies. 70 years after Lex Bollmora was adopted, Stockholm is once again suffering from a serious housing crisis and housing inequality. The undeniable fact that I am a cog in this system makes me uncomfortable and anxious to better understand my own role and responsibility as a planner. I know there are others who share this feeling. So how can we as planners and architects discuss the issues of contemporary housing politics? And how can we use our knowledge and experience to create something new beyond the current situation?