CHAPTER EIGHT
SOCIAL EXCLUSION

Ranneberg is a residential suburb in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. As part of the Angered municipality, it stands out as one of the greenest communities in the region. Situated around a hillside, Ranneberg is uniquely landscaped and unlike any residential area in Scandinavia. The air is always clean and fresh, and the climate changes at least three times in the course of the year. November to March feels very much like winter, often with rain, snow and ice. Winter is extremely cold, dark, windy and mysterious. In the spring, vegetation begins to grow, birds return from warmer climes, snow starts to melt and the frozen lake, Surtesjön, changes its appearance and brings life to this natural wonderland. Each summer the full splendor of Ranneberg’s blessed ecosystem comes alive. Flowers bloom. Summer gets warmer, days get longer and longer and the lake is warm enough to swim in. Forests offer an abundance of blueberries and mushrooms. And birds nest and raise their young. Needless to say, it is a breath-taking community covering nearly 35 hectares of land and containing 50 blocks of buildings for 1,600 apartments. Today, it is home to over 5,000 people.

The apartment blocks came into existence through public financing when Swedish building companies built them as part of a national social housing project in the early 1970s. They were built for middle-class families with one or two children who worked in other parts of the city. All of the apartments featured a view either overlooking the lake or forest. A doubled-lane ring road with designated traffic signs was linked to smaller streets and each connecting street had a flower named after it in alphabetical order, when traveling clockwise. The residential area was arranged in a castle-like configuration with an unobstructed view in both directions. Gardens and flowerbeds were artistically arranged around all of the apartment blocks and gurgling streams meandered in a steady rhythm. This was the nation's top residential community close to a lush forest and beautiful lake, and it represented the dream of a classless society.

The community was built in response to the psychological needs of the 1970s. Most of these architecturally modern apartments were the standard three-room unit, about 70 to 75 m², planned for a Scandinavian family with a few children. The idea was that these apartments should appeal to middle-class families who would like to live in a fashionable part of town. Once the working parents had gone to work, pensioners walked their dogs in the morning and children were sent off to school the community sank into a complete silence. The social housing community was extremely clean, green and fresh, both inside and outside. Each flat had a spacious living room, a double fridge and freezer, two toilets, a quality kitchen and a balcony with a view overlooking either the lake or forest, or both. Each apartment was equipped with high-quality double-door, double-lock, doorbell, peephole, resident’s name and flat number and mail slot. The mail slots were beautifully designed and installed exactly 85 centimeters above the floor on each door. The peephole allowed observation from as far as three meters to as close as a few inches away to identify unexpected visitors.

The community was the symbol of a peaceful society that had deliberately chosen to provide a safety net for those who failed. It was and continues to be a lovely place within close proximity of social welfare to monitor its overall operation. Policemen, firefighters, mental health staff, illegal cigarette and alcohol traders, community nurses and members of the church are more attentive in this community than ordinary visitors. Ranneberg, then as now, is a self-contained community under state fund...

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