Björn Hårsman and Amy Rader Olsson
Stockholm - like the rest of Sweden - suffered from a severe recession at the beginning of the 1990s, but since then its economy has been expanding steadily. Its infrastructure is of a high standard and well maintained, recreational opportunities abound and its environment is healthy. However, Stockholm's popularity has strained its resources and has exacerbated inherent spatial challenges. Every year, 15,000 more people move to the Stockholm region and most want to live in the inner city, which has an acute housing shortage. Major transport corridors are jammed with traffic during peak hours and the region's northern and southern halves are becoming increasingly segregated. This chapter describes the current regional policies and challenges in the Stockholm region, as well as recent attempts to unite the metropolitan region's municipalities in a new municipal association. The first section describes the region's structure, economy and land use. The second section reviews the current government structure. The third and fourth sections describe the nature and coordination of policies shaping the region's current and future spatial structure. The fifth section discusses the pros and cons of various metropolitan governance institutions in terms of addressing regional goals. The final sections offer reflections on the future governance of the region and how to meet its challenges.
Up until about the mid-1970s, the Stockholm metropolitan region roughly corresponded to the area covered by the 26 municipalities comprising Stockholm County. However, the functional labour market region is rapidly spreading into surrounding county council areas to the north, west and south and now comprises almost the entire Mälar River Valley (Mälardalen). The region includes both dense urban settlements and rural communities, including much of the Stockholm archipelago. Water is Stockholm's greatest natural resource but is also a spatial planning challenge; linking all but the closest islands with bridges or tunnels is expensive and harms unique natural habitats.