The small house bureau – an 85-year old success story

In 1924, JS Hedström, the head teacher at the Norra Latin School in central Stockholm put forward a motion at a meeting of the city council to create possibilities for underprivileged workers to build their own houses. After an investigative enquiry was carried out, the proposal was accepted in 1926, and 200 small houses were built in the Skarpnäck and Bromma areas of Stockholm.

Work in place of capital

Hedström’s proposal was revolutionary in that it did not necessitate the payment of any cash deposit, but instead required the voluntary labour of any interested parties. 90% of the contracts for these small houses were coupled to loans that were to be repaid over a 30-40 year period. The plots of land on which the houses were built were leased on the basis of contracts with a 60-year limitation. To qualify to take part in this system, applicants’ yearly incomes were to be in the range of 3500-8500 kronor, and applicants with small children and indoor work were prioritized. People from all kinds of working backgrounds took advantage of the system of self-initiated building of small houses, and all those who were granted a lease successfully managed to complete the process of building their own house under the management of The small house bureau.

Ready to build

So that everyone would be able to carry out the construction work themselves, the building materials were delivered as modular ready to build sections. The houses were delivered in prefabricated sections with doors and windows already in place. Plumbing and cables were cut to appropriate lengths, roof beams and interior staircases were ready for installation. The small houses were very modern and had proper plumbing and water supplies, gas and electricity. Critics of the scheme maintained that these standards were too high for ordinary workers (!) In today’s society, where the provision of mortgages by the state has been abolished and a simple terraced house costs more than 3 million kronor to build, divisions along class lines become all the more obvious, between those who have some power and control over their housing situation and those who don’t. The small house bureau cannot motivate its existence other than by focusing on building in an ecologically, economically and sociably sustainable manner. This is why we today are building only on existing infrastructure and preferably building on public housing.

About The small house Bureau

The small house Bureau helps tenants to build on and extend the properties
they rent through self-initiated building projects. The small house Bureau
facilitates the establishment of building cooperatives that bring together
tenants, property-owners and housing companies. The tenants design the
form of the building extensions together with The small house Bureau. The
property owners and housing companies provide building materials, quality
control and maintenance. If you are interested in the service provided by
the small house Bureau, you can sign up by sending an email to
info@smastugebyran.se. Please provide your name and address, the name
of the property owner or housing company, and relevant details about your
apartment such as the total size and number of rooms. The small house
Bureau will then contact the property owner or housing company when there
are at least ten tenants in the area who wish to start their own building
projects on their apartments.