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Kenth Olsson: Kristianstad had the worst slums in Sweden

In the 1950s Kristianstad had the worst slums in Sweden. The municipal housing company ABK was formed to get to grips with the appalling conditions. ABK rented out its first newly-built flats 70 years ago.
Condemned housing in Kristianstad in the 1950's. There were many houses that were in just as bad a state.
Condemned housing in Kristianstad in the 1950's. There were many houses that were in just as bad a state.
Foto: Kenth Olsson

ABK was formed on 23rd February 1950. In the same year the book ”Kristianstad 1950” was published. In the book there is a description of one day in that year.

The reader can follow the night watchman, the street-sweeper and the milk cart. The biggest steam engine depot in the country, with 50 engines, was here, and so was the biggest town square, Hästtorget. The biggest concern in the town was Yllan. Sommarlust was Kristianstad's Gröna Lund, and Kristianstad was an important military town.

"750 people queued at the town hall to get a flat in ABK's first building project"

The book also describes the 100 or so condemned houses, home to about 300 people, on Östra and Västra Vallgatan, draughty and damp, where the houses themselves trample the people living there underfoot.

Demolishing 111 apartments – will build tenant owned apartments

In 1963 AB Kristianstadsbyggen was given the go-ahead to start building the first six-storey blocks of flats on Näsbychausséen. Now ABK is one of Sweden's biggest municipal housing companies, with around 10,000 rented flats, shops and offices.
In 1963 AB Kristianstadsbyggen was given the go-ahead to start building the first six-storey blocks of flats on Näsbychausséen. Now ABK is one of Sweden's biggest municipal housing companies, with around 10,000 rented flats, shops and offices.
Foto: Lasse Ottosson

"The building, 200 metres long, was popularly known as ”the Great Wall of China”."

There was a big housing shortage. So the politicians responsible formed the municipal housing company ABK in 1950. 750 people queued at the town hall to get a flat in ABK's first building project.

On 1st April 1951 the first tenants were able to move into the flats on Kanalgatan. By 1953 all the 179 up-to-the-minute flats were ready. The building, 200 metres long, was popularly known as ”the Great Wall of China”.

In 1958 the first blocks of flats, with 460 homes, were ready at Lyckans Höjd. The blocks, the highest of which was eight storeys high, were described in Kristianstadsbladet as a ”Manhattan”.

Nostalgia but it’s good that the building is being demolished

In the 1960's ABK built 1850 flats at Gamlegården.
In the 1960's ABK built 1850 flats at Gamlegården.
Foto: Tommy Svensson

"Rats slide around on the kitchen floor, which is an ice-rink"

But there was still slum housing left. Ada Nordström was in charge of the town's Slum Station. In an interview in Kvällsposten in 1955 she said that she ”had worked in more than a dozen towns in the country, but in none of them had conditions been so miserable for old people and those living alone as in Kristianstad”.

In 1957 Kristianstadsbladet wrote of slum housing in the town centre: ”Rats slide around on the kitchen floor, which is an ice-rink, and yet people live crammed into every corner, often in conditions we would have said were impossible in our day and age, oif we had not seen the squalor with our own eyes.”