The Battle for the Suburbs

15 October, Stockholm

Accommodation is an explosive issue. Housing loans played a central role in the outbreak of the global economic crisis and in many countries, the increasing costs of living is the ultimate reason for people to go out in the squares and protest against the impact of the crisis and austerity. Even here in Sweden, the costs for accommodation is going through the roof, taking up an increasingly large part of peoples salary. The wave of privatization in the public housing sector, with conversion from rented apartments to privately owned apartments has created a housing market based on speculation and a plundering of our common public good. This year, the queue for public housing in Stockholm has grown with 75 000 people, while the supply of vacant rental units continues to shrink, due to a combination of privatization and the fact that there are very few building projects.
On the Global Day of Action – United for a social change – many people chose to gather in the central squares of the major Swedish cities to hold general meetings on the growing economic inequality. The Squares gathered a motley crew of people in a broad and open discussion.
But a lot of people chose a different path, making accomodation the central issue for their protests, as the privitization of our houses is a privitization of our lives. We chose to focus on continuity, conflict and contact. We gathered instead in the squares in the suburbs and neighbourhoods where we live, to take the chance to talk to our neighbors about the new wave of privitization launched this year by the neoliberal political majority in the city council, how we can stop it and defend the right of tenancy. We talked to senior citizens and young, walked around the apartment blocks and distributed leaflets, offered coffee and filled our neighbourhoods with information about housing rights. Over one hundred people took part in the activities, taking place all over the various subway lines in Stockholm. Some 10.000 leaflets were distributed and a first contact was taken between a number of loosely organized local protest groups, all battling the privitization in their own appartment blocks. The idea is to connect the political struggles we face in our everyday life with the global movement and making the demands on an end to neoliberal inequality sensible in a Swedish context. This has proved to be a good start for a political network dealing with theese issues and more activities are planned for the whole fall and winter.