Christiania goes condo

A government plan to build condominiums in the squatter colony of Christiania would spell the end for the enclave, known for its collective ownership principle, say residents

Since 1971, the squatter colony of Christiania has billed itself as a place of peace, love, and happiness, where all property was owned and administered collectively.

A new government plan, however, proposes to build as many as 400 resident-owned properties in the enclave, reported national daily Politiken on Monday. Residents fear that the move will destroy Christiania's special nature.

For the government, the plan is an effort to integrate Christiania, a green area bordering the city's former protective canal, into the rest of an increasingly crowded Copenhagen.

After coming to power in 2001, the government has taken an increasingly harder line on Christiania and its estimated 850 residents, closing its open-air hash market, Pusher Street, in 2004, and threatening to bulldoze the colony entirely.

The new construction could add as many as 400 new residents to Christiania's population.

In addition, current residents of Christiania will be forced to become members of a public housing organisation, and will likely have to begin paying a normal rent on their properties. Currently, adult residents pay DKK 250 per month to live in Christiania. The new rent would be between DKK 2500 and 4600 for a 50 sq. m apartment.

Officials admit that changes are on the way.

'This is going to be a major modification that will give both changes and renewal,' said Carsten Jarlov, director of the Palace and Properties Agency, the government organ responsible for carrying out the Christiania plan.

Some of the new homes will be condominiums or other resident-owned dwellings, which goes against Christiania's founding principle of collective ownership.

'We have said all along that we don't want resident-owned dwellings,' said Mette Prag, one of the Christiania residents participating in negotiations with the government. 'That would totally destroy our self-administration.'

Leftist parties in parliament voted for the bill to normalise Christiania, but later ended their participation due to disagreements with the finance minister, Thor Pedersen, who oversees the project.

'The collective right to dwellings has ensured that you can't earn money off them and that has created an openness in Christiania,' said Villy Søvndal, chairman of the Socialist People's Party. 'If you open it up to normal homes, with price rises and speculation, then Christiania will become a normal Copenhagen neighbourhood.'

Facts about Christiania:

- An 85-acre squatter settlement in Christianshavn

- Established in 1971 when people invaded a disused naval facility

- Long famous for its open-air hash market

- Police close hash market in 2004

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