Land-use planning has made British housing so expensive that more than half of all homeowners expect to have to downsize the next time they move while only 22 percent expect to upsize. Home prices in Britain and other European countries with lots of land-use regulation tend to bubble as much as prices in California and other states with strict land-use rules.
This Swedish apartment building slated for demolition due to planners’ overbuild of multi-family housing looks a lot like many so-called transit-oriented developments recently built in Portland. Photo is from the Swedish “abandoned places web site.
Meanwhile, Swedish planners so overbuilt multifamily housing that, since 1995, they’ve had to demolish 20,000 units, and many more wait to be torn down. The apartments were built as part of what planners called the “million programme,” in which a million dwellings were to be built in the 1950s and 1960s. About 110,000 of these units were built in three- to eight-story apartment buildings during the 1950s and 1960s. They were so uniform and boring that, in 1971, people took to the streets to revolt against government policy and demanded the right to build and live in single-family homes. As a result, where before 1970 three out of four dwellings built in Sweden were multifamily, after 1970 three out of four were single family. Here are some photos of apartments waiting for demolition.
In some places, Sweden built entire new towns of apartments that today are mainly inhabited by immigrants as native Swedes have moved to suburban single-family homes. The new towns were built using a slab or Plattenbau form of architecture and closely resemble East Germany’s Halle Neustadt, which the Antiplanner visited in 2005.
In his massive book, Cities in Civilization, planning historian Peter Hall asks, “Why, in a country so affluent, with high car ownership, so recently rural, and with so much land, was it necessary to put so many people into small high-density apartments?” His answer is that planners favored high-density development and they were able to get their way because rent controls, instituted in the 1940s, had created a housing shortage and people were initially willing to accept any housing they could get.
The fact that Swedish voters kept the Social Democrats in power continuously from 1932 to 1976 didn’t hurt, nor did the fact (true in nearly all western European countries) that a parliamentary form of government gives the party in office far more power than parties ever enjoy in the United States. Planners thrive best, it seems, when they don’t have to answer to the people.