Svartlamon was originally a working-class housing area with old wooden houses, owned by the municipality. In the 1990s it was occupied by a large group of tenant activists, who were eventually granted the right to live there. A tenant organization took form and founded the housing association.
Social housing in Norway is almost non-existent, and the public housing sector is run with marked principles such as short-term contracts and marked-based rent. In Norway’s third largest city, Trondheim, an ideal housing organization founded by the tenants themselves, is renting out housing to approximately 250 tenants.
The area Svartlamon is governed by public regulation since it is a pilot for urban ecology and participation, amongst others. Svartlamon has a strong democratic culture, and it is managed through meetings, publications, and committees. The tenants are also represented on the board of Svartlamon housing foundation. In recent years, Svartlamon has built several new and eco-friendly houses where the tenants themselves have done the building. It also has a number of services such as their own kindergarden (also open for others), cafes, numerous repairing workshops, concert scenes, spaces for band practice, etc.
The “Svartlamon model”, was used as a tool with an emphasis on communal sharing, resident democracy, diversity, affordable rent, and “do-it-yourself” principles. The residents decide collectively how they want their community to be.
The Svartlamon model entails that each resident takes greater responsibility for maintaining their own living space and communal areas than in other typical rental arrangements.
By doing maintenance work together, and by applying each other’s resources and skills, the rent can be reduced to below average market prices. A requirement for the rent to be kept low is that residents contribute with their own effort, either through physical work, administration, voluntary assignments, or social initiatives.
This project represents a unique model for tenants’ participation in a Norwegian context. Another achievement is building affordable new housing (3 million NOK [295,000 EUR] for 5 small family houses, for instance) with second-hand materials and through old houses being relocated from the countryside to Svartlamon.