Tiny Houses in Gothenburg, Sweden

by Kent Griswold on April 20th, 2012. 43 Comments
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by Anders Karlstam

I have attached a picture over a part of our city built up with tiny houses of different designs. This type of building in this type of area are called “kolonistuga” and the tiny houses are called “koloniområde.” This area was built way back to give hard working People in factories a chance to get recreation on vacation.

There are several areas with tiny houses in our city. Most of them are located in surrounding locations of the city, but this one and two to three more areas are located inside the city. It is a very nice contrast to all large buildings.

Sweden tiny houses

Photo Credits Anders Karlstam

Usually, people are not allowed to live in these permanently and they are empty during the wintertime.

Every house is owned personally, but owners have to be a members of a community that rents the land from the city. So every house owner rents the ground from the community, which is called a leasehold.

This community is called “Slottsskogskolonin” and was founded back in 1915. In the beginning it had 155 leaseholds and had about 40 tiny houses built in the first year. Today, the community consists of 154 leaseholds about 250 – 300 sq meters each.

tiny house in Sweden

Every leaseholder can have a tiny house no larger than 20 sq meters with a porch no larger than 6 sq meters.

I should also mention that there are regulations that say that all buildings have to be preserved in the architectural style of the period. Leasholders are also allowance to build a small storage building for storing personal items such as tools and gardening equipment. This storage building can be no larger than 3 sq meters.

green Swedish house

And yes, all tiny houses in this area have running water, drainage, and electricity.

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43 Responses to “Tiny Houses in Gothenburg, Sweden”

  1. Joel says:

    There is a lot of talk in the tiny house community about individual houses and architectural ideas but not nearly enough talk about systems for tiny houses and tiny house communities. Thank you for this refreshing perspective and inspiring use of land.

  2. Joe says:

    What is the reasoning behind people not being allowed to live in these permanently? Why not the choice? It would seem to be wasted space and an opportunity for vandalism and crime. Love the houses, not the concept. In the US it tends to be a movement toward going smaller but it people are having to keep two residence even if one is an apartment it seems to be moving in the other direction. May be culturally or economically motivated but I think it serves the city(tax) and landlords(rent) more than the people in general.

    • Chrystal says:

      I wonder that myself. Seems a shame they can’t live their year round. That just means they have another house elsewhere taking up more space with more stuff.

      • et says:

        These spring out of an older tradition in which the allotments were used for subsistence food production. Many allotment areas do not have year round water or adequate septic systems.

      • Natalie says:

        I agree it’s a shame, I would love to live in one of these year round. But as et commented, they usually don’t have year round water/plumbing and electricity, which is a problem. Also I can’t help but wonder if it is to keep prices down? If they could be used for year round accomodation I think the prices would sky-rocket, and considering the housing shortage in Gothenburg (the location of this specific colony) a lot of people just looking for roof over their heads, but who weren’t interested in maintaing the buildings and gardens would move there. Which leads to my question: why not build more affordable year-round housing like this? So that there’s something both for the people who wan’t a historical tiny house and gardening opportunities AND for people who wan’t an affordable house but aren’t necessarily interested in gardening or maintaining historical buildings?

    • Randy says:

      Amen, Joe! I don’t want to sound negative here, but who the heck would support and maintain a home they can’t use year-round? That is messed-up.

    • Teresa says:

      Look at it this way. By investing in these houses through rent or whatever, the tenants are maintaining them and probably keeping them from being bulldozed, as we in America are so fond of doing. Don’t slam them for having two residences. If they can’t live there permanently, they HAVE to have another home. This isn’t about “waste” American-style,it’s a reasonable solution to preserving history. I personally bought some acreage with a tiny fixer-upper bungalow on it to prevent it being razed in favor of five MacMansions, and intend to move to it when I retire. I can’t swing the commute to it with gas prices, so I still have to live SOMEwhere while I’m earning a living. Am I being wasteful daring to have two residences? I love the tiny house movement,and was surprised to see short-sighted remarks about how another country manages housing. American is one of the most wasteful,extravagant countries in the world, as proved by the ongoing battle of the Tiny House Movement to gain reasonable permitting and set up communities. Please look at the positive side of these little European houses being saved, not the so-called restrictions.

  3. tinycottage says:

    nice to see gov regs that restrict it to small/tiny :) and to period style.

    perhaps the heating/insulation has something to do with no winter living?

  4. Amanda says:

    They’re so beautiful! It’s so strange to see a tiny-house community of this scale, when this is precisely what so many of us have been longing for and talking about. I’d guess that it has to do with the seasons as well, but I too am curious about that, especially since it seems to be a requirement.

  5. Pony Rider says:

    We have the same kind of thing in Finland. There are these “colony gardens” with the tiny huts in Helsinki. They are so cute – and also only used for recreational purposes, not full time living.

  6. Matthew says:

    Tiny Houses = Yes! Stupid, inefficient grid design for community = NO!

  7. Lynette says:

    Hello everyone!

    “kolonistuga” refers to the little cabin and “koloniområde” refers to the area in which they are situated in…just thought I’d correct you on that. :-) I live in Linköping, Sweden and we too have one called Valla koloniområde. I’m not sure about the rules, but I do know that most people who own one, have it so they can garden and enjoy themselves on a nice sunny day. :-) Quite a few people live in apartments here so it’s nice to have a plot of land in which to grow veggies. I have photos of the area and some of the stugas if anyone is interested, let me know. I’m trying to get my husband to warm to the idea of living in a smaller house or even tiny house…he just laughs when I suggest it. But I am absolutely fascinated with the idea.

  8. Maria says:

    This is beautiful but I really can’t understand why people don’t have the choice to live where they want to. What if I want to live in a tent or up on a tree?
    Remember Calvino’s Baron in the Tree?

    • Naomi says:

      Yes Maria, it is a shame we can’t indulge in our gypsy wagons and treehouses and barn homes wherever we want. Unfortunately, restrictions and permits are often put in place because not everyone respects nature and neighbors. I’m not talking about gated communities and their square-footage requirements, I mean the basics like septic systems and distance from wells and so forth. In our community,we have to haul our garbage to a central dump, and not everyone bothers to keep it neat and tidy and away from stray dogs until they make their monthly (or yearly) run. We get people who dump stuff in the river where the rest of us fish and swim. On and on. Because irresponsible people exist, the rest of us have to pay the price by conforming to, or challenging, the rules they caused to be put in place. The only relief I see if is a group of like-minded individuals buy a major chunk of land, and make it happen.

  9. Anders Karlstam says:

    The thought with these areas “koloniområde” is for people to grow vegetables and to get recreation on theire vacations. That is the idea and remember that this is a old idea and that people in early twentieth century lived crowded and had worse health than today. This was a method of improving life quality and better public health.
    But I agree there should be areas for year round living. But one can always buy a property and build a tinyhouse with no such regulations as in these areas “koloniområde”.

  10. Toronto has a couple islands – Algonquin and Wards island that have houses a bit larger, but still very small by traditional standards with similar limitations on ownership. Originally the houses were built elsewhere and carried over on barges as summer cottages. There are no roads or cars on the islands – residents use cargo bikes and take the ferry into the city to work and shop.

    http://torontoisland.org for more information

  11. jipsi says:

    And you gave us 42+ lovely pictures of these charming little houses to leisurely browse – THANK YOU for the eye candy! I would LOVE to see FLOOR PLANS of every one! LOL … and interiors! ;-)

    Seriously, though. You spent some time there, taking lovely snaps of so many of the little homes in this community, and your love of them shows in your photography (even the ones boarded-up for the season look well-kept and sweet). THIS is exactly what I wuld like to see all over the country, here in America: little ‘neighborhoods’, communities, of people who CHOOSE to ‘go small’ and dedicate themselves to living frugally but with pride in their homes evident. The pictures above would definitely go a long way towards convincing the naysayers of how beautiful a grouping of ‘tiny homes/little houses’ really can be, unlike the ‘shanty-town’ they surely envision when we use the words ‘live simply’, ‘tiny house’, and ‘small footprint’…
    Thanks again for a great story, and for sharing this wonderful ‘find’ with us!

  12. Kate says:

    We have the same system in Austria, called “Kleingartensiedlung” (literally “small garden settlement”), where the plots are about 200 – 300 square meters and the houses built can cover a maximum of 35 square meters. Sleeping lofts are possible, but there’s also a maximum height measurement that doesn’t allow for much head room on the upper level. Garden sheds and outbuildings count towards the 35 m² total, so you have to be very careful about the footprint of your buildings.

    Most cities have one or two of these communities on their outskirts, larger cities have quite a lot of them, often in less “desirable” residential areas such as along train tracks or next to industrial areas. They were originally meant for workers’ families, to give them a possibility to grow their own food. The lease used to be very cheap, but since they gained popularity, prices have risen. Since their original purpose was to grow food, the structures built on them were only supposed to be sheds or summer houses which could be inhabited during the growing seasons, but not during the winter.

    A few decades ago, a new form of these communities was developed in Vienna, which are specifically called “small garden settlements for year-round living”, where you can build positively HUGE houses (50 m² total footprint and a max height that allows you to stand up in most of the upper floor) which you can use as a primary residence.

    On my 30 minute train ride to Vienna, I pass about 5 of these tiny house communities, and each time I promise myself that next time I’ll take a camera and take a photo of them for the Tiny House Blog. Maybe I’ll manage to remember now! ;)

  13. Joel says:

    It’s been interesting reading everyones comments/concerns here. I live seasonally in a tiny house and I love it. I think that part of what attracts people to tiny houses is the ability to move them around. I’m trying to read as much as I can find about these communities as I can.

  14. alice h says:

    What I find most interesting, apart from the actual houses themselves, is how well this demonstrates a very basic human need for a little house and garden that enables people to live small but well. Having something like that made life so much better for people who otherwise were crammed into apartments and spent a lot of their waking hours labouring for someone else. Being directly responsible for bettering your family’s diet and living a more relaxed life contributed in no small way to bodily and mental health. For those able to do so full time, what a treat! Of course not everybody is interested in that kind of life but it does seem to be a very common desire.

  15. madove says:

    Many similar communities exist in Germany, too.

    They unfortunately were never thought for all year living.
    Apart from the strong statal laws on living space (especially those about being attached to the black-water grid and garbage collection that are inevitable in densely populated zones and cities), those communities themselves tend to be quite conservative and stictly regulated, e.g. with rules about keeping your garden perfectly cured and clean.
    The somehow creative, experimental and alternative mindset of people who would want to live in a tiny house all year is normally not too welcome there.
    And this would be an affordable and beautiful lifestyle for really poor people, too, which also are not welcome in an “recreational” space as such… :(

  16. MJ says:

    I think a point is being missed here by because of some cultural differences. Holidays are very different from American holidays in areas of Europe, longer and with a focus on family and relaxing with a big emphasis of that being outdoors (rather than trying to cram adventures into two weeks on a ‘eco-exotic holiday, or ‘Europe, 15 cities in 5 minutes’ or ‘dude ranch’).
    I have no doubt there are plenty of people, as we’ve also seen here, in Europe living full time in small homes, but if one can’t/doesn’t want to, I think it’s pretty awesome to be in a country dedicated to ‘garden time’ small home communities for holiday seasons. Apples and oranges.

  17. Charlie says:

    I think I understand the concept. These were summer houses for working people who perhaps live in tenement type housing in the cold, cold winters and used these to escape the confinement of living in an elevated box, not to mention growing food. Lots of people, including Americans, have seasonal vacation houses than are uninsulated for year round occupancy. Heat is expensive in Scandinavia and perhaps when these were built, it was too expensive to build or heat a year round dwelling. Nobody is forcing this on the “renters” and they probably feel lucky to have such an opportunity. I’m sure they don’t feel they are being taken advantage of.

    • Kathleen says:

      Charlie,
      Having lived in Linköping, Sweden for 8 months, I learned about the stugas. Most stugas, whether they are in a colony or not, have been passed down in the family, generation after generation. Also, in Sweden, summer is short in months, but long in days. Sun rising around 4 a.m., and not setting until 10:30 p.m.. The Swedes traditionally have vacation time of 5 weeks. So, the majority take off all of July. It was hard to understand at first, but after experiencing one short summer with long days, and part of one long winter with short days, I can understand why.

  18. engineer guy says:

    I’ve seen lots of these places, and tricked out Garden Sheds. They are little getaways from compact living in areas without near the US land mass. Folks Garden, have a Hobby or Workbench, cook in or outside, BS with Friends, and just chill in some fresh Air. There are often implicit standards and Peer pressure. So, ideas like Composting Toilets might not fly. Culturally, these places serve a very different function than some here are superimposing on the concept.

  19. Andy says:

    I don’t know about your part of America, but in northwest Ohio we have koloniområde literally everywhere. The concept is identical. PLUS, each one here has a little lake for the summer vacationers!

    In the 1950′s we built the interstates across the farmland. Every bridge or overpass required a mound of dirt, which came from a borrow-pit nearby. Instant pond. Half a century later, many of those ponds anchor fanciful little communities with names like “Twin Lakes” that consist of dozens of travel trailers, many permanently parked with annual leases. They are owned by the same working folks as might own a kolonistuga, and for the same reasons.

    Except few grow vegetables.

  20. Margit Merlin says:

    This is a TYPICAL Schrebergarten. Very common in Germany. Schreber started the movement in the 1800s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allotment_gardens

  21. walter says:

    What a wonderful place! Good comments too! I just read the comments on a post about a beautiful treehouse. Some dudes were going on and on how the treehouse didn’t have a fire extinguisher and about human waste. It was a great read–glad Kent left it up–but a peaceful, civil thread is a real relief.

  22. I think a village of small houses would be way cool and green. Perhaps it would be called ‘Smallville’? :) It would be neat to see a more permanent version of it.

  23. [...] is a Portlander herself.  Tiny houses for workers: Anders Karlstam shares photos of an area of tiny houses in Gothenburg, Sweden, that were built starting in 1915 as vacation homes for factory workers. Individual members of the [...]

  24. Jean says:

    I live in Denmark, and we too, have kolonihavehus områder. I own one myself. I did worry about having two households, but my flat is smaller than my kolonihavehus, and what little extra stuff I had was moved to the kolonihavehus. I am allowed to live there seven months of the year, then the water is turned off, during winter. There are only 160 houses in the afd where I have my house, but my daughter and her boyfriend have just bought a house in an afd that has almost a thousand houses, and is the biggest afd in Scandinavia.

    We like our kolonihavehuser because we can get out of the city in summer, and grow our own veggies and fruit, and have grill evenings in our own gardens without the neighbors literally looking down at us. My house is situated between a farm and a golf course, but is only ten minutes on bike from where I work, compared with fourty minutes from my flat. I have given up summer holidays abroad, because now I have my garden to look after. I believe that in the future we will be allowed to live here all year ’round because of lack of affordable housing.

  25. deborah says:

    Adorable, but way too many rules and regulations for my likes. Would love some interior shots.

  26. Carolyn says:

    You say these houses are 250-300 square meters? Would that make them about 2,500-3,300 square feet? Is that the lot size, or, are they only 250-300 square feet?

  27. See in comments above. Tiny House blog is how I got in contact with my friend Lynette Kleve, back in April 2012. Thank you! Her friendship made my stay in Linköping, Sweden very pleasant.

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