Until the late 1960s, policy makers did not make an effort to differentiate between different populations of rogue builders. In a sense, they did not need to be precise, because all the terms that they used applied to the different cate-gories of builders most had been peasants at some time of their lives, coming to Belgrade from elsewhere; most were also workers whose terms of employ-ment did not meet even their basic needs; and most could be considered poor insofar as they were not part of the privileged class who obtained subsidized housing from the state and had to sacrifice most of their income toward build-ing a house. The terms used were as much a way of framing the discussion on rogue construction, and the appropriate remedy to it, as a reflection on the true nature of the builders. Builders were characterized as social cases needing to be cared for and removed from public sight; speculators who should be disciplined and punished; nouveaux-riche who should be humbled. These were all cases of delinquency. Only in the case of exploited workers was it necessary to question the way in which the state functioned.
Rogue construction was a major problem on many levels and for many dif-ferent state actors. Squatters on land assigned to other uses were a problem for urban planners and investors in real estate, whether state-owned firms or communal authorities, because they would need to be compensated, driving up the cost of construction. Their presence was actually acting as a brake on housing construction in the city, as they often installed themselves on the land upon which new housing was supposed to be built.38 Rogue construction in
Although the phenomenon of rogue construction began earlier, federal and municipal authorities first officially recognized that it was a problem that needed concerted attention in 1961. This was the year of the founding conference of the Nonaligned Movement, headed by Tito, Nasser, and Nehru, which was to take place in Belgrade. The likely trigger of this sudden official concern was the existence of settlements of rogue housing in parts of New Belgrade that were visible to official visitors as they entered the city from the airport. It would have been embarrassing for Yugoslavia, a country that wished to claim a leadership role in the developing world, had these visitors noticed shanty-towns spreading in the heart of its very capital. In response, the authorities organized a cleanup operation, transplanting offending inhabitants to a hastily erected settlement, aptly named “Ledine” (meaning “wasteland,” or “unculti-vated land”), on the distant periphery of New Belgrade. The few official docu-ments attesting to this slum clearance refer to “temporary” housing, a euphe-mism that might also include the barracks erected for construction workers in New Belgrade, but there is no doubt that the federal and municipal authorities also targeted rogue construction, as they launched the first investigation into this latter trend at about the same time.39
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The Municipal Council debated the results of this first investigation on 18 December 1961, in what was probably the first open discussion of this topic.40 While urban planners and district authorities had a similar understanding of the root of the problem, they disagreed on the appropriate solution. Defend-ing what they saw as the interests of the city as a whole, Aleksandar Bordevic, director of the Town Planning Institute, advocated preserving a high standard of living inside the city and argued that the fight against rogue construction should be tied in with the struggle to urbanize Belgrade’s far periphery. While a few municipal delegates agreed with this approach, others argued that the Town Planning Institute’s approach was out of touch with the realities on the ground. Municipal delegates were not only local representatives but also ad-ministrators in their districts. They argued that their local experience gave
The participants in this debate were mostly sympathetic to the rogue build-ers. They were told that there were currently 2,400 illegal buildings, including houses as well as other structures such as sheds, for which a ruling was pend-ing or that were awaiting demolition. That year, 538 new buildings had been erected without permission.41 It is difficult to know how reliable these figures are. It is not known how the data were collected, but it is likely these simply reflected the cases that had come to the attention of the districts (opstine), in whose interest it may in fact have been to underreport illegal construction in their territory. At the same time, the city council was obviously keen to ad-dress a problem it deemed urgent and was therefore not trying to minimize it.
Although rare cases had been recorded in which individuals built a house illegally in order to exploit others, by renting out rooms, Bordevic and the delegates recognized that rogue builders were by and large unskilled and semiskilled workers who could not obtain housing through the usual channels. While one participant was optimistic that the epidemic of rogue construction would be resolved by a phenomenal increase in housing construction start-ing that very year, none of the others shared his optimism. Bordevic added that, in order to have an impact on rogue construction, the cost of apartments would have to descend below the one million-dinar mark, half the current cost, something he did not foresee in the near future.42 In other words, in the current circumstances, it was not possible for the construction industry to provide housing for these people.