Barcelona welcomed hundreds of housing professionals from around the world on Wednesday, June 7th, in the first of the three-day International Social Housing Festival (ISHF). The fourth edition of Europe’s most important sector congress, held from June 7th to 9th, is centered around the Palau de Congressos in Barcelona and has over 2,000 registered attendees.
Architect, researcher, and communicator Núria Moliner welcomed the participants before the opening speech by the acting mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau. Among other aspects, Colau highlighted that it is the first time this renowned congress is being held in Southern Europe, representing a great opportunity to showcase the advancements the city has made in terms of housing.
In the first session titled ‘Emerging housing challenges and solutions in Catalonia and Spain’, participants included Iñaqui Carnicero, the Secretary General of Urban Agenda and Housing of the Spanish government; Marina Berasategui, the Secretary of Housing of the Generalitat; Antonio Balmón, the Acting Mayor of Cornellà de Llobregat and Executive Vice President of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona; and Sorcha Edwards, the Secretary General of Housing Europe.
Public housing policies were at the center of the debate during the session, particularly those aimed at defending the right to housing. In this regard, there was a consensus to work towards a cultural and paradigm shift that places the right to housing at the heart of policies and distances it from the commodification that many sectors subject it to.
During the morning session, the auditorium of the Palau de Congressos also hosted two additional sessions. The first one, titled ‘Barcelona-Catalonia Housing Model: Urban planning strategies to foster housing affordability’, examined various plans to develop the public housing stock from a local to an international scale, with insights from Shane Phillips, the Housing Initiative Manager for the UCLA Lewis Center.
The second presentation, titled ‘Barcelona-Catalonia Housing Model: Increasing the public housing stock’, focused on the current role of social housing in Spain, which represents less than 2% of the total housing stock, and the different strategies available to rapidly expand the public housing supply.
An event with multiple points of interest
However, beyond the main sessions held in the auditorium, each day of the ISHF features numerous presentations in adjacent rooms within the Palau de Congressos, which can be found in the program. In the afternoon, speakers and attendees disperse throughout the city for various activities and scheduled visits to other conference venues.
Additionally, the first day of the ISHF also served as the backdrop for the inauguration of the XII Ibero-American Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (XII BIAU) with the theme ‘Dwelling on the Margin’, providing a space for debate and reflection on housing and urban habitability.