An “offer they couldn’t refuse”: Christiania accepts government deal to build affordable housing within its perimeter

As part of the deal, the state will guarantee a 67 million kroner mortgage to enable the residents to become the legal owner of the northern part of the Christianshavns Vold rampart

Christiania’s residents have approved government plans to build 15,000 sqm of affordable housing in the free state by 2031 for “nurses, pedagogues, social workers and others”.

The residents had until today to respond to what the government called a “‘take it or leave it’ offer”, and news started to filter through early this morning that a residents’ vote had approved the sale. 

It followed a lengthy meeting that began at 18:00 on Sunday, lasting until at least 01:30, when “a fairly large majority” approved the offer.

“Arms tied behind their backs”
A spokesperson for Christiania said the residents accepted with “their arms tied behind their backs” – a result of some strong-arming by the state.

According to the terms of the deal, the state will guarantee 67 million kroner in loans to assist the free state with the purchase of the land it is situated on: the northern part of the Christianshavns Vold rampart, which is mostly bordered by water.

The mortgage, which no bank would give without state guarantees, will ultimately save Christiania 6.5 million kroner in rental costs per year. 

An offer you couldn’t refuse
Had the offer been turned down, Christiania would have been ordered to dismantle nine illegally constructed buildings at its own expense.

Furthermore, state loans and guarantees relating to the renovation of buildings have expired, so Christiania would have faced paying for building upkeep as well.

“It was an offer you couldn’t refuse. It was implicit in the offer that if we did not accept it, then Christiania would almost shut down – at least financially,” Christiania spokesperson Hulda Mader told TV2.

“We can’t get help to set up the rest of the city because we can’t borrow the money. There are no mortgage banks that will lend us the money because the state will not guarantee the money.”

1,000+ soon
Today, the population of Christiania is 850 (700 adults and 150 children) and the housing will add a further 300 residents by 2031.

“We say yes because we want to take a social responsibility in Copenhagen and in Denmark in relation to being able to build affordable housing and to be able to create communities for people who want to live and be part of the Christiania community,” residents’ spokesperson Mette Prague told TV2.

The deal will enable the residents to become the legal owners of land they have been technically squatting on since 1971. Formerly, it was a military barracks that was abandoned.