In encouraging the purchase of housing with the help of credit, federal and municipal policy makers evidently hoped that, in sparking competition among construction companies, the market sector would push down the price of new housing. These initial small-scale reforms were in fact followed by large-scale market reforms the following year. Theoretically, the resulting improvements in the efficiency of the construction industry would, in the long run, help the class of workers attracted to rogue construction, by making state-produced housing affordable. However, in view of the substantial down payment that was still required, these loans appear to have been intended for Belgrade’s growing middle class of professionals, skilled workers, and higher-ranking civil servants, whose personal savings would fuel and discipline the economy, and not for low-income earners.
Indeed, some municipal delegates questioned whether the reforms would in fact succeed in helping the category of persons most affected by the hous-ing crisis. Svetozar Ognjanovic, president of the municipal trade union council (gradsko komunalno vece), pointed out that, were banks to require 50-percent participation on behalf of loan applicants, workers in low-profit sectors would still not be able to finance the purchase of a new home. He predicted that the eighty thousand new apartments put on the market would be purchased by people living in the interior of the country, who had not contributed to the city’s economic growth.52 Ognjanovic’s statement reflects a widespread percep-tion that natives of Belgrade were continuously overlooked, while outsiders, especially cadres (managers and technical specialists), were privileged in the distribution of housing. His argument also implied that the reforms ran the risk of further aggravating Belgrade’s problems by inviting further migration. He was not alone in his view. A report warned against the loss of control over migration that would ensue if banks began to disburse credit to those who could afford it. In his opinion, people living in the interior would buy or build a home in Belgrade with the intention of obtaining a job there.53
To assist Belgrade’s low-income earners, the municipal authorities reinforced their support of the strategy first formulated in 1961: the creation of self-built low-income family-home suburbs. Yugoslavia was not the only socialist state to not only tolerate but also provide support to self-builders as a means to deal with the housing shortage. Socialist states seem to fall into two categories: those in which the overwhelming majority of construction was performed by the state (Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Romania) and those in which a substantial portion was private (Bulgaria, Hungary, the Soviet Union, and East Germany). The Bulgarian state could not begin to meet the needs of its population, so it actively encouraged its citizens to build homes by providing inexpensive bank loans and allocating state land free of charge. The major-ity of new housing in Hungary after the Second World War was also privately built, and much of it was self-built. Hungarian architects, like Belgrade’s town planners, were critical and dismissive of self-builders and eager to try to con-trol and discipline self-building, since they were not able to curb it. It was in this spirit that, starting in the 1970s, Hungary introduced a program to de-velop and promote family-house prototypes.54
10 Italian Courtyard Garden Design Ideas Photo Gallery
Similar dynamics were present in Belgrade in 1964, with some state actors eager to allow citizens to resolve their own housing problem and urban planners eager to oppose such a solution. The proposal presented in 1964 to al-lot land in the suburbs for twenty thousand individual homes provoked the liveliest debate regarding the three proposals the other two being increased rationalization of urban planning and the introduction of bank loans raising many of the same issues that had come up in 1961. Engineer Vukajlo Cojbasic pointed out the advantages of this approach. First, whereas apartments built by state-owned enterprises took two years to build, self-built homes were ready to move into in five to six months, promising quick relief of the housing prob-lem. This does not mean that they were complete construction took place in phases, progressing when the builder had accumulated enough resources to proceed to the next phase.55
An entirely novel argument also made its appearance in the debate over whether or not to encourage self-building: the proposal was now justified on the grounds that people wanted to live in their own homes, rather than in modernist developments. Cojbasic suggested that a segment of the population found life in the suburbs more comfortable, less crowded. Petar Kolundija, president of the district of Vozdovac, claimed that “a significant number of people” were actually turning down opportunities to invest in apartments in collective housing because they were “seeking a higher standard of living.” These were likely the sort of people who had inspired the ill-fated project for a luxury development in New Belgrade. Such people would welcome the oppor-tunity to build a house in the periphery.56
This proposal received an enthusiastic endorsement from a number of participants in the debate. Aside from Cojbasic and Kolundija, it received the endorsement of Ognjanovic; architect Miodrag Nastasovic; Ranko Sotra, an engineer representing the tractor industry; and Stevan Jovanovic, president of the district of Zvezdara. Jovanovic, like his colleague in Vozdovac, spoke in fa-vor of the plan, pointing out that a large number of workers would not be able to afford apartments in Belgrade. Here, too, delegates focused on the idea of channeling personal savings into construction: “It is obvious from the exam-ple of illegal housing . . . that people with the lowest incomes can save and set aside significant resources when the goal is to resolve their housing situation.” He argued that a failure to channel rogue construction would create enormous problems for district administrations, as they were responsible for providing infrastructure (utilities, roads, schools, hospitals, etc.).57