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As I sit down to write my blog, I reflect on how everyone likes a good story and I am excited as I think I have a good one to share.

Everyone likes a good story.

One of Malmö’s favourite and widely told stories – well within the circle of city makers – is that of the apartment block Vårsången in Malmö’s suburb of Lindängen.

It is told far and wide. I alone have heard the story told through a lecture by the CEO of the developer, I have been bussed out to Lindängen on a study visit as part of The Sustainable City Development Conference 2016, I have read the story in the magazine of the municipality, heard it on the radio, I have seen it referred to in the academic literature, ..

I like it too.

So I also retell the story…

…  for the first time in nearly 40 years, new apartments have been build in the dilapidating suburb of Lindängen.

What made it possible was a deal Trianon and the City facilitated through Bygga om Dialogen*. Trianon is the investor, developer and property owner and is a local company. The City provided the land at an affordable rate in exchange the developer assured jobs for local unemployed residents. Sweden needs 700 000 new homes in the next 10 years and in a suburb like this, the unemployment stands far above the national average.

The 140 apartments are currently under construction on municipal land leased to Trianon. Over ten years the land rent is reduced as long as Trianon lives up to their commitment to local job creation. 10 jobs per year over 4 years (about 25 % of the workforce) in exchange for affordable land. The property company has introduced requirements for local jobs in the contract with the contractor, Peab. A fee has to be paid by the contractor for each job that is not created.

What is new is that Malmö Stad, the municipality, has put more value on long-term job creation and an increased tax base then on short-term income based on land rent.

The story continues.

So I enthusiastically continue the story …

… according to the CEO of Trianon, this is not about charity, but about a smart business model. They see the direct relationship between quality of life of their residents and the monetary value of their properties. So Trianon is also sponsoring memberships fees for “their” residents children in the local football club and they have opened a kindergarten and Malmö’s first launderette with café, among other social investments.

But as I spread the story, now also on the blog,  I wonder what impact the spreading of this particular story has on urban development in the city, on national housing policy, on the residents of Lindängen, …

Storytelling is a tool.

We repeatedly use stories to make our point; to contribute to discourses and dialogues but storytelling is also a very persuasive way of communicating with a larger audience. I am sure, the CEO of Trianon and Malmö Stad are very much aware of the benefits of getting their story out; Look! To illustrate the story, Trianon posts the photos of the people that have already been employed!

We who are involved in urban development in whatever way rarely think of our work as storytelling, although I think we are aware of the centrality of constructing a narrative in our work, so stories become cases.

Stories become cases.

lindangen_malmo

(Lindängen a typical Swedish suburb – source: Wikipedia)

Everyone is talking about Lindängen. In the end all this storytelling has made Lindängen into a case. The municipality even started calling their efforts in the neighbourhood CASE LINDÄNGEN.

I wonder: One thing to feel like everyone is talking about your neighbourhood, but how would it feel to live in a case?

__________

** Bygga om dialogen, roughly translated to rebuild dialogue, is a municipal initiative responding to the complex reality of many suburbs. It accepts that planning is about learning (ie also failing) by introducing processes usually used in a design that not only formulates but also reformulate the challenges faced. It brings together a broad constellation of actors – this includes property owners, construction firms, various departments of the municipality, innovation sector, etc. to test new ideas.

 

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