Not all the barracks in New Belgrade were state-built. In a proposed design for new barracks, the Office for Communal Construction in New Belgrade (Uprava za komunalne izgradnje Novog Beograda) explained that it needed to tear down “illegally erected barracks, of unknown ownership, occupied by a large number of families of workers employed in companies accomplishing work in New Belgrade” before they could proceed with the preparation of the land for construction. “The existing barracks are made out of wood or partly covered by pieces of brick, without any kind of sanitary installations, and are on the verge of collapsing.”31 In their place, the office proposed building an-other set of barracks adjacent to an existing settlement by the old exhibition grounds next to the Sava. These barracks would contain apartments composed of one 4×4-square-meter room, one 2.8×4-square-meter kitchen, and a closet. The apartments did not have bathrooms, which presumably would be located in another facility. The designers of the barracks touted them as “resolv[ing] the problem of housing space using the most economical amount of space, providing inhabitants with a quality apartment.” Whereas Yugoslav architects had formally rejected such strategies for dealing with the housing shortage, municipal bodies clearly had other priorities.
In the decade or so after the end of the war, the grandiose plans for transforming New Belgrade were left largely unrealized, partly as a result of the Tito-Stalin split but also because of the state’s economic priorities as they had been laid out in the 1947 five-year plan. Urban planners’ ambitions of improv-ing the quality of life of Belgrade’s citizens had been disappointed, as investors and municipal organs made a mockery of their plans, building only housing and neglecting everything else. Inhabitants complained bitterly about their liv-ing conditions, and builders endured primitive living conditions to build a set-tlement they felt they would never get a chance to live in, in spite of the state’s promise to reward the working man for his toil.
After a decade of sacrifice, anxiety, and ideological metamorphosis, the mood began to change in the mid-1950s due to Yugoslavia’s improving economic situation and its leaders’ decision to begin investing in consumption. As the state began to put money into building housing, urban planners in Belgrade returned to designing neighborhoods. They continued to adhere to the vision presented in the Athens Charter. Several factors were key to the continued support for this approach. Although Yugoslavia’s approach to economic mod-ernization was changing, the Athens Charter’s promise to provide modern, hygienic housing to the entire urban population at minimal cost held onto its appeal. Moreover, the emerging doctrine of self-management provided further support for the Athens Charter. Federal policy makers introduced the residen-tial community in 1956, an organ of local self-government that was essentially a derivation of the neighborhood unit concept.
Yugoslavia’s economic circumstances began to improve. After a catastrophic drought in the early 1950s, the subsequent harvest was abundant, and invest-ments in industry began to bear fruit. Stalin’s death and the ensuing normal-ization of relations with the Soviet Union meant that Yugoslavia could also decrease its defense spending. The party leadership began to hint that invest-ment priorities were changing—it was time to focus on bettering the standard of living. Tito indicated in a July 1955 speech in Karlovac that the state would reduce its capital investments and increase its investments in the production of consumer goods. This new orientation was finally translated into official policy in 1957 with the inauguration of a new five-year plan. Whereas increasing the standard of living had ranked only fourth and last among the goals of the 1948 five-year plan, it would rise to first place by 1964.32 The improvement of hous-ing conditions would be an important element in the drive to ameliorate the standard of living.
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Even before housing construction had been officially put back on the agenda, the Standing Conference of Yugoslav Cities (Stalna konferencija gra-dova Jugoslavije—SKGJ), created in 1953, identified the catastrophic housing shortage in major Yugoslav cities as one of its central preoccupations. Accord-ing to Sarajevan-born architect Jahiel Finci, architect and professor at the Tech-nical Faculty in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia possessed some 3 million homes. In order to reach the European average of one apartment per four inhabitants, however, the state would have to build 1.35 million more homes.33 This was an enormous
The federal government was responsive to these recommendations, although it took four years for new policies to be put in place. In 1958, the federal government passed a law that nationalized all residential rental properties.36 In addition, it adopted a new system for financing housing construction in 1958 and 1959. Housing went from being a good that was exclusively distributed by the state to being a good that was purchased by employers and provided to their workers and, eventually, to being a good that could be purchased by in-dividuals. Employers were required to withhold 4 percent of their employees’ wages and deposit them into Funds for Housing Construction. These funds were, in turn, used to finance the construction of apartments, which employ-ers would then put at the disposal of their workers. Policy makers were con-vinced that tying housing to productivity would encourage firms to become more productive. In 1959, rents were increased in an effort to reflect the cost of maintenance and amortization.37 As part of the same set of reforms, people could purchase a new apartment through a preorder system, which allowed them to make monthly payments to a construction company to finance the construction of a new home.38