The 1965 debate illustrates the fact that rogue construction was a much trickier business than the various bodies running the city had originally taken it to be. They had diagnosed the problem as arising from the migration of peasants from the countryside to the city, who due to their lack of skills could only find unskilled or semiskilled work that did not pay enough to cover the cost of liv-ing. In spite of the Town Planning Institute’s protests, they imagined that the problem could be resolved by channeling these workers’ illegal impulses into legal channels, providing them with low-cost parcels on which to build. Yet the problem had gotten worse from year to year across Yugoslavia, to the point where the number of illegally built houses was nearly as high as that of legally built ones. In Belgrade, 7,548 new cases were registered between 30 September 1965 and 31 August 1967, indicating that the problem had persisted in spite of the Municipal Council’s efforts.83 To address this growing nuisance, the Standing Conference of Yugoslav Cities selected “illegal construction” as the theme for one of its conferences, held in Split in 1967. In the previous years, conference participants had discussed topics as wide-ranging as tourism, child care facilities, communal infrastructure, district statutes, food supply, and emer-gency response services. Starting in 1965, the issue of housing made its way onto the agenda; by 1967, it was the topic of three out of five conferences. In 1965, one conference focused on prefabricated single-family homes, and two years later, there were conferences on the results of housing-sector reforms, single-family homes in cities, and rogue construction.
Participants in the 1967 Split conference ranged from urban planners— both practitioners and theorists—and municipal and district administrators to representatives of the Yugoslav association of trade unions. They painted a
One of the key documents considered was a sociological inquiry by the Federal Institute for Communal and Housing Questions (Savezni zavod za ko-munalne i stambene pitanje—SZKSP). The sociological profession’s grounding in a Marxist theoretical framework influenced the methodology of the study. Consequently, the results that it produced were as much a reflection of the questions asked and assumptions made by the designers of the study, as they were of the “real existing” rogue builders.84 In spite of its limitations, the study is important because it proposed an alternative understanding of the phenom-enon, one that was certainly better informed.
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Stepping back from the popular assumption that rogue builders were uneducated peasants who had recently flocked to the city to enjoy the advantages of urban living, this study attempted to establish a profile of the average rogue builder. According to a sample of rogue builders in several Yugoslav cities, 68 percent of all builders in Yugoslavia were workers. The vast majority were family men between the ages of twenty-five and forty-six. Seventy percent of the Belgrade sample had moved to Belgrade from elsewhere in Serbia, and 78 percent had arrived in the city between 1946 and 1960.85 The authors of the study emphasized the strong ties of this population to the city: “These are ac-tually workers, people with families, working in the socialist economy, most frequently in industry. Their ties to agriculture are almost entirely severed, and there is a large number among them who have completed the eight years of elementary school or more.”86
While it was tempting to see these builders as passive actors, forced into a course of action by a lack of other options, the evidence in the SZKSP study suggested that the authorities should consider them as decision makers who did in fact exercise a certain degree of choice. To begin with, the majority had turned to rogue construction as their first option. Only 30.1 percent of builders in the Yugoslav sample had sought to obtain housing from their firm, whereas 58.2 percent had not sought help from anyone. While this can be interpreted
The discussions also emphasized the fact that rogue builders were not merely trying to put a roof over their heads. Their homes were not mere shelters but also testified to their personal tastes and desires. Milos Savic, director of the Novi Sad urban planning office, for example, noted that builders built their homes in proximity to the city, close to their place of employment and to social centers, expressing a desire for convenience. Iva-Maja Jankes, one of the authors of the SZKSP report, mentioned other motivations, such as proximity to schools, health considerations, and a desire to return to the builder’s old neighborhood. She stated that “the location and other characteristics of the buildings and housing style were inspired by and represent specific wishes of potential builders,” which included the desire to live in a familiar type of home and the desire for a garden that could be used to grow produce for additional income. Commenting on the builders’ desire for a familiar form of housing, she added that inhabiting a village-style home eased the process of acclimati-zation for rogue builders. This assertion flew in the face of the most basic prin-ciple underlying urban planning in Belgrade during this period—the idea that a modern, urban form of housing was essential in the struggle to modernize society, the only way to socialize migrants into adopting an urban attitude and lifestyle.88