Wohnen als öffentliches Gut auf dem Prüfstand: Wohnungsreformen in Dänemark und Schweden
Housing as a public good on the test rig: housing reforms in Denmark and Sweden
Henrik Gutzon Larsen
Anders Lund Hansen
Summary, in English
Scandinavia has historically been known for high levels of social justices. Universal and tax-funded social security and health systems, state pension and free basic as well as higher education became fundamental elements in creating more equal societies. Moreover, housing sectors based on use value rather than exchange value have historically been key to the development of Scandinavian welfare states. In this tradition, housing is seen as an essential necessity rather than only a commodity that can be exchanged for individual gains, encompassing two major forms: Cooperatives and common housing. The paper's focus is on housing in Denmark and Sweden, which many continue to see as examples of countries representing a measure of social justice and solidarity. Both countries have histories of housing forms based on some notion of use value. We outline these alternatives to market-based housing and discuss the transformation processes that have either undermined or challenged them. In essence, cooperatives and particularly common housing became common inheritances of social (rather than individual) wealth. However, the development in Denmark and Sweden demonstrates how easily housing commons for the many can be appropriated and turned into sources of exchange value for the few. This is very evident in the histories of Swedish and Danish cooperatives, where use-rights to common property with a few legislative changes became market commodities, subject to price inflation. For common housing, in both countries, if most clearly in Sweden, challenges partly derive from changes to the legal context of common housing, which broadly follows wider political shifts from ‚classic‘ social democracy to neoliberalism. Danish common housing has so far most successfully resisted this transformation. In important respect, this is because ownership of Danish common housing is located in strong organisations outside the neoliberalising state, while Swedish common housing generally is owned by the (local) state. In both countries it will take a concerted effort to sustain and develop common housing as a collective and non-commodified good.