Stockholm: A new squat cracked today!

Stockholm_Avprivatisera_HagsatraWhy we have occupied and established the New Neighborhood Auditorium in Hagsätra – a statement

Hagsätra, a predominantly low income suburb in southern Stockholm previously dominated by affordable public housing, has been sold off in its entirety to private landlords. Most of it now belongs to the Ikea-owned corporation Ikano, who already many years ago purchased the suburb’s center square and whose presence in the suburb is daunting. Upon arrival with the metro you are greeted by 15 massive flags that tower over the square. The flags of Ikano. Fairs and events arranged for locals are called Ikano—something. A youth center that was publicly funded and on the center square was suddenly closed some years ago and moved to the back side of a building facing the highway at the fringe of the suburb. This youth center is now run by Ikano and they have hired permanent security staff to surveil the few teenagers who go there. It is reasonable to assume that this is part of an effort to clear out unwanted elements from their central property. Just as the overall ambition with their whole turf is to raise property value, which effectively means clearing out current unwanted elements from the residential population. The method is simple: make it economically impossible to stay.

Over the years, our local activist group, Linje 19, has repeatedly tried to gather support against Ikano through smaller protests but each time been ushered off the premises. Premises which legally should be public space, a public plaza. Our attempts to announce meetings and statements about the corporation have all been swiftly removed. The heavy ownership presence comes with a severe democratic deficit, infringing on an otherwise legally protected freedom to express dissatisfaction or outrage with power. Residential efforts to intervene with renovation plans and rising costs have been counteracted by the company through an ever changing slew of tactics. No negotiation meetings are ever held with more than one household at a time, resulting in a lack of communication possibilities between residents and a missed opportunity to face the company with a collective voice. Democracy is an ever diminishing luxury in the area.

When the last remaining public housing in our suburb was sold out by the city in 2012 (a total 1700 apartments sold in a single chunk), with Mayor Sten Nordin and his accomplice Joakim Larsson at the wheel, they argued that the sale would generate “economic space in the company [Svenska Bostäder – public housing company] that can be used for ie. the renovation of existing properties as well as the construction of new rental apartments” (Statement 2012 Dnr023-344/2012). There has been no indication that we will ever see the benefits of that deal here. Resources have plainly been taken from us. And sold to the benefit of the profits of a private corporation. This has been a part of the city’s policy of “revitalizing the city” through urban renewal driven by private businesses and outside investment. The policy rests ultimately on a demand on the residents. We are forced to prove our validity in the area by way of money. Common spaces are replaced with commercial enterprises, where only those who can afford to at all times be a paying customer can remain with any dignity.

Ikano is an enterprise enjoying particularly favorable conditions in terms of profit on homes. Ikano Bostad bought the housing stock cheap, from a government eager to get rid of every last bit of public domain. To make the purchase, Ikano takes loans from their own bank, Ikano Bank. The interests on the loans are thereby collected by the very same family. They then make all the renovation material purchases from their very own father, Ingvar Kamprad, the owner of Ikea. Installing new Ikea kitchens where no new kitchens are necessary but which nonetheless secure a higher market value on the apartment. This in turn prompts a rent increase of 63%. The company is in other words given by way of this huge wholesale a monstrous subsidy from the government, with which they can make even more money, collected from individual residents. These residents are given no say on what renovations they consider necessary or what renovations they really can afford. Ikano Bostad has effectively shown that they are impervious to the economic realities of the residents. Or rather: they are interested in realities matched by residents who can afford their profit scheme. Those who find that they certainly want their homes back are forced to face a life of higher costs and increased poverty, and those who cannot afford to move back in to their previous apartment, post-renovations, need move somewhere else, who knows where. A major portion of the renovated housing stock is thereby made available to new tenants with greater purchasing power.

We have, for all the reasons mentioned above, decided to occupy and open up a space that has long been missing from Hagsätra – to serve a need that has long been neglected. The building we occupy is fortunately still owned by the municipality, but is also the last remaining Hagsätra structure in public ownership. It has not been in use for over ten years and we consider this to be a waste of our common resources. The decision to privatize the center and sell off all public housing was never an idea rooted in the population. We need a space – the only space with this potential left in the area – to discuss our discontent and to plan democratically and collectively a way of dealing with the vulgar conditions of this community. Incidentally, the space we have opened up is an old auditorium, previously utilized by the adjacent school but which they no longer can afford to rent. The school would benefit greatly from having access to this beautiful auditorium but the staff is not at liberty to take it into use as we, the people, are.

Therefore, this occupation is a necessity and a responsibility. By creating a space where we can meet and discuss how to win back power over our part of the city, we are simultaneously introducing a common space that has been lacking, opposing the recent onslaught of privatization, and resisting the subsequent economic eviction epidemic facing so many residential areas today. These buildings may belong to someone else, but these homes belong to us. And knowing that the very homes we invest so much of our living energy into so easily become tools for maximizing profits, we see that the current property relations determining the lives of people in Hagsätra cannot continue. Working people have paid for the maintenance of these structures ever since they were built. Working people have made these neighborhoods what they are. Obviously, then, working people shall decide and manage over them, collectively. We demand that all those now living in Hagsätra be able to stay, and that the properties be returned to the public commons: de-privatized.

Welcome to the New Neighborhood Auditorium, Glanshammarsgatan 9 in Hagsätra!
If you can’t make it, you are welcome to visit our website.

Avprivatisera Hagsätra