Skovgårdsparken in Aarhus could be the next ghetto to be demolished. Aarhus Municipality is considering tearing down over 200 apartments in the area.
By Katrine Skov Petersen and Ilka Dorothea Schnelle
Aarhus Municipality is planning to demolish over 200 apartments in Skovgårdsparken. So far, they have already torn down over 300 apartments in Gellerup. In total the local government is planning to demolish over 1.500 public housing-apartments before 2030.
The apartments in question belong to the local Housing Association “Brabrand Boligforening”. Over the last ten years, buildings in the area have been renovated for 350 mio. DKK.
Keld Laursen, head of the Housing Association, says that it is “a bizarre idea to demolish these well-functioning buildings belonging to a housing association that has no problems, and where it is wonderful to live.”
The reason behind all of this is the so-called “Ghetto list”. This is a list of all the areas in Denmark that the government considers a ghetto. The criteria to be on this list include how educated the citizens are, how many citizens work, the number of citizens with a sentence and the percentage of immigrants from non-western countries.
If an area is on the Ghetto list for five years in a row they end up on the “hard” Ghetto list. Skovgårdsparken has been on the list since 2016 and if it appears on the list in December 2020 that means it will have been on the list for five years in a row.
According to the Danish “Ghetto law” an area on the hard Ghetto list is only allowed to have 40 per cent public housing, the rest have to be privately owned. Right now Skovgårdsparken has a 91,4 percentage of public housing.
Is a solution on the way?
On June 10 Aarhus City Council decided not to wait for December to see if Skovgårdsparken appears on the Ghetto list again. Instead, they decided to start preparing a development plan for the area.
Unfortunately the local government didn’t have time to comment on the situation, but at the meeting on June 10 city council member Anders Winnerskjold from the party Socialdemokratiet had this to say: “It is imperative that areas like these become an integrated part of the city. Children should not grow up in areas with a high percentage of adults without a job, and where the percentage of criminals is high. We want everyone to have the same opportunities.”
If you ask Keld Laursen, demolishing public housing is not the answer to this problem.
“The solution of demolishing houses is, in my opinion, a very poor answer to the problems in areas like these. It not only means that there are people who will have to move against their will, but it also increases the inequality in our society. These apartments are quite cheap, probably a lot cheaper than the buildings these people will have to move into instead. So this will definitely increase the inequality in our society.”
Keld Laursens agrees that areas like Skovgårdsparken have problems. But instead of tearing down buildings Laursen thinks that the best solution would be to create targeted initiatives in order to counteract the problems. This is something they have had success with in the past.
“A few years ago we found there to be too many unemployed people in this area, so we made a separate and targeted effort to get some of these people to work and even got a few of them to move. Both of these efforts worked and we ended up under the limit set by the government. If the government now assesses there to be too many people here with a sentence, then we initiate targeted initiatives to counteract the problem.”