The third edition of the Barcelona Housing and Rehabilitation Forum (FHAR) ended on Tuesday, November 29, with the second and final day, also with the Palo Alto venue as the chosen location and with a sunny day that helped to combat the cold among the attendees who filled the main hall.
The morning session featured three presentations, the first two focused on the renovation of buildings, one of the main themes of this year’s event. In recent years, Barcelona has made a firm commitment to the intervention and improvement of buildings throughout the city, as a solution to the emerging need for housing availability by citizens. But, as has been shown, this cannot be done in any old way.
Environmentally conscious renovation
Implementing policies focused on sustainability, which among other benefits have an impact on energy savings, is increasingly necessary, as explained in detail by the speakers present on stage: the partner of Cíclica, Anaïs Bas; the president of Batec and environmental consulting architect and partner of Societat Orgànica, Albert Sagrera; the founder and director of Grup Habitat Futura, Cèlia Galera; and the director of Projects, BIT Habitat, Urban Innovation Center of the Barcelona City Council, Isabella Longo.
Among the highlights of the debate, all of them agreed on the importance of collectivizing the renovation process and involving all the people who make up the community of neighbors. A dynamic that has to allow the creation of a more circular model, that walks towards decarbonization, and thus generates a community that allows energy sharing, even among several neighboring buildings. “People must be renovated, not buildings”, says Sagrera. This a paradigm shift that, if it does not go ahead, will continue to leave notable consequences along the way, even more, serious than one might expect. “In a normal winter, a 10% increase in real energy prices is associated with a 0.6% increase in deaths,” notes Longo, referring to an article published by The Economist in the context of the war in Ukraine.
A boost to the renovation of buildings that has been, in large part, stimulated by the arrival of the NextGeneration Funds, which have allowed the Barcelona City Council to open a line of aid to reach a large number of citizens. The program director of the NextGeneration Funds of the Generalitat de Catalunya, Elsa Ibar, has described these grants, which affect the structure of the building itself, accessibility improvements in housing, replacement of windows in acoustically stressed areas or even in a group of homes in the same neighborhood.
A range of lines of action that show that Barcelona is a reference in this field at the national level, and that open up new alternatives in the future. A positive context not without risks and uncertainties, especially when these economic incentives from the EU run out, as highlighted by the manager of Housing and Rehabilitation of the Barcelona City Council, Javier Burón. For their part, the aid also has an impact on the social fabric, directly related to the need to expand the stock of social and affordable housing and to ask the State to apply for loans, as emphasized by the representative of Habicoop – Federation of Housing Cooperatives of Catalonia, David Guàrdia, and the counselor of the Governing Board of CIEGO and vice-president of CEES, Anton Gasol.
Distant geographic realities, but common problems
To close the morning, and seek a more global perspective related to the housing emergency, which has undoubtedly also been at the center of the debate in this edition, the last presentation was given by representatives of different geographical realities, but with common problems. Housing commoditization, land degradation, gentrification at an accelerated pace, over-occupation, etc.
Realities are shared by two cities such as Cadiz and Valencia, and which have been highlighted by the Councilor for Housing, Health and Common Services of the City Council of Cadiz, Eva Tubío, and the Secretary of Housing and Social Function of the Valencian Community, Alejandro Aguilar. And, thousands of kilometers away, but with common links and a very interesting reality, the Executive Secretary of Condominiums, Ministry of Housing and Urbanism of Chile, Doris González, has developed the concept of democratization of cities, which through all kinds of measures is managing to vertebrate a society strongly fractured by economic inequalities.
Practically, a 360° vision brought the curtain down on the FHAR presentations, although the afternoon still reserved a space for the dissemination of other topics of interest with a format of workshops that were held in different parts of the city.
The exhibitions of industrialized housing and co-housing, the exhibition of a renovated public housing park and the work carried out by the housing discipline department, which fights to prevent fraudulent and speculative practices, have marked the first shift, while the second has had a talk aimed at young people and the difficulty of accessing housing, a workshop on care and support for evictions and a visit to the Municipal Rehabilitation Office, recently inaugurated.
With good synergies and many learnings in the backpack, FHAR 2022 bids farewell with the desire to face the many challenges that lie ahead for housing in Barcelona, and the prospect of overcoming and explaining them in next year’s edition.