|The Develpoment and Impact of Swedish Housing Policy|
|Having a place to call home is a crucial prerequisite in order to function in society. The importance of housing can actually be compared to the importance of wage labour. The access to a comfortable home at affordable rent is just as important as being gainfully employed at a decent wage. Hence, to investigate how poverty influences peoples housing situation, in terms of evictions, is not only important if we want learn more about the consequences of poverty. It is equally important – if we want to learn about the workings of the welfare state – to find out if, and how, different social and housing policies have been designed to mitigate these consequences. This paper aims to explore how poor people’s position on the housing market has fluctuated over a hundred years and what social political factors which have had an impact on their situation.
The study presented in the paper is inspired by Rowntrees studies of poverty lines in York 1899, 1936 and 1951. The paper examines how the conditions for those who where balancing on the threshold of homelessness changed over time within the developing Swedish welfare state. Why is it that the share of eviction cases, out of all cases handled by the Enforcement Authority, varied between four and 22 percent between 1880 and 1965? Probably more interesting; why are some of the all time low shares occurring during the inter-war depressions? In Sweden most people with tight economical margins rent their homes, and when their economy worsens their ability to obtain and/or keep their housing is weakened. Why wasn’t this the case in the 1920s and -30s?
In previous research it has been stated that housing issues was not a prioritised question in Swedish social policy until after the Second World War (Abramsson 2003; Andersson 1997; Esping-Andersen 1985 m fl). Still, I would suggest, that the long time perspective is motivated by the public efforts made concerning other areas than producing/providing housing. They might not have alleviated the housing shortage but some efforts seams to have facilitated the possibility of keeping ones home. In keeping the share of evictions down, for example during the depression, fewer people became homeless.
The paper will primarily be focusing on the provision of housing, housing subsidies and agencies, and how these factors influenced fluctuations in the eviction rates. How did the conditions change over time for those who was threatened to be evicted? The questions will be answered in the form of a case study based on Stockholm’s Enforcement Authority’s archive, where eviction cases was handled and recorded, and Stockholm town council records, since the town was a major owner of rental apartments and had the principal responsibility for providing housing for its inhabitants.
The long perspective, ranging over two world wars, as well as two economic depressions, offers an excellent opportunity to identify both path dependencies and opportunities for change. It also provides a fairly solid ground for a discussion of future trends and challenges.