ciutat[s] possible[s] 3: New housing models

6 minuts

What [new] models and instruments can intermediate city councils use to guarantee the right to housing?



The pandemic has made us question the model of the metropolis in which we want to live, that is: how the city should be post-covid. Coboi lab has launched a series of conversations about the city of the future: ciutat[s] possibles[s]. So far, in the previous city sessions we have talked about participatory urbanism and the role of young people in building the city of the future. But now we leave the how to talk about the what. This year has not only been marked by a health emergency, but also by a housing crisis. But this comes from afar. That is why we will spend an hour talking about it from the point of view of the intermediate cities of the metropolitan area.



A possible city session on new housing models, where members of academia, organized civil society, business and administration propose concrete public policies to address the challenge on the table.

  • Oriol Nel·lo – geographer and researcher at the UAB. Promoter of the Llei de Barris and president of the Barcelona Neighborhood Plan Advisory Council.
  • Jaime Palomera – anthropologist and researcher in La Hidra, political company for urban transformation and spokesperson for the Sindicat de Llogateres.
  • Lali Daví – architect and coordinator of La Dinamo, foundation for cooperative housing in cession of use and member of the housing sector of the XES.


—  Lluïsa Moret, mayor of Sant Boi

— Sonia Hernández – Deputy General Director of Urban Policies of the Transports, Mobillity and Urban Agendra Ministry



In the last decade, renting has become the majority “option” for the population up to 44 years of age. In Catalonia, however, only 1.6% of housing is public. This, added to the bubble in the private market, has caused today 4 out of 10 tenants to suffer financial stress. On average, tenants in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB) dedicate 40.5% of their total income to housing, almost doubling the European average.

Already in 2007, the Law of the Right to Housing in Catalonia established a very clear objective for administrations: 15% of the housing stock must have the function of guaranteeing social policies by 2027. This does not mean that only the municipalities have to build, but they have to ensure that a huge multiplicity of actors take responsibility in increasing the affordable park.

This 2021 the European Union approved a resolution which once again made it clear: all housing (both public and private) is at the service of the general interest and the administration has to guarantee that it fulfills its social function. The resolution also insisted that public housing has to be for rent forever – not for sale, or requalifiable.

Cities, and therefore municipalities, are the ones most closely affected by the housing emergency, but they often lack the skills and resources to deal with them. Without losing sight of the reality, what can be done by local governments?

1. Inter-municipal alliances to make the public park for permanent rental that we have never had through joint efforts and strategies. Some proposals:

(A) Metropolitan public-private operators (such as the metropolitan housing operator) to activate mandatory land reserves for affordable housing pending construction. And other formulas: consortia, public or semi-public companies focused on the promotion and management of the park.

(B) A broad alliance of municipalities, social movements, research centers, and the sector in favor of the right to housing that pressures to increase the budget for housing and that this budget is reached by the municipalities. There are different possible fronts here: activating the Generalitat’s urban solidarity funds, requesting a large investment from the European Investment Bank for permanent rental public housing through the Barcelona Metropolitan area, or, within the framework of the Next Generation Funds, the possibility of accessing an additional € 70,000M in the form of soft loans to invest in public housing.

2. 30% reserve on consolidated urban land. In other words, in new constructions and large renovations, 30% of the dwelling is protected. Without this measure, official protection housing can only be located in new growth areas, outside the city (developable land) or in areas of major internal transformation (unconsolidated urban land). With 30% we can distribute housing below the market price and promote urban cohesion. Cities like Paris or Vienna already apply similar measures.

3. Regulation of rental prices: if the municipalities ensure the application of the 11/2020 law, the private parties are co-responsible for the social function of housing (as established by the constitution) and prices are contained. This implies ensuring that the real estate portals include in the advertisements: (1) the price of the last rental contract and (2) the price of the Generalitat Index. As well as penalizing landlords who rent above what the norm says.

4. Housing cooperatives in cession of use: The cooperative not only does the promotion but is the entity that manages these homes forever and ever, avoiding their commercialization. A city council can: (A) publicize the model and activate the demand; (B) facilitate access to public land and mobilize private land and through financial support for promotions, either with trial and error, tax credits, or with guarantees to access financing collectively; (C) Promulgate substantive regulations: provision of land reserves by cooperatives in cession of use, and modification of urban regulations to exempt official protection housing and cooperatives from parking reservations.

5. ATRIs (Inclusive Repopulation Tactical Groupings): fillings that allow the city to regenerate and increase the officially protected housing spaces in a faster, more economical, sustainable and energy-efficient way.

6. Municipal rental bags.

7. Condition aid for rehabilitation on the maintenance of use or dedication to social rent. To deal with residential segregation, the areas and comprehensive rehabilitation instruments have to be expanded, but if the aid is not conditioned, they may end up expelling the neighbors themselves.

8. Strategic Residential Areas (ARE): activate the programmed ones and, if necessary, establish new ones. In Baix Llobregat, for example, there are strategic residential areas for the construction of 16,000 homes, 9,000 of which are officially protected homes. For this reason, the constitution of the urban consortia necessary for the development of the AREs is necessary.

9. Discontinuous urban sectors to rebalance the endowment of officially protected housing. In two municipalities or in two parts of the same municipality, a discontinuous sector is delimited in space and the reserve of officially protected housing can be unevenly distributed in these two parts as a strategy to face residential segregation.

10. Trial and withdrawal and expropriations: underused mechanisms that allow increasing the public housing stock. In the hour, delimiting an area of trial and error allows to govern the effects of the transformations generated by the rehabilitation to avoid that the price increases do not displace the population of the neighborhood.



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