Barcelona City Council is determined to promote new housing models that are more supportive and sustainable, that ensure that citizens enjoy this basic right and will make Barcelona a fairer city. To achieve this, the City Council has launched a number of initiatives, such as promoting cohousing through housing cooperatives.
“Barcelona is developing its own model, drawing on international models and learning from its own experience”, says the Councillor for Housing, Josep Maria Montaner, in an article.
For example, the City Council has begun a tender process for seven public land sites allocated for cohousing projects driven by housing cooperatives, which will have to take charge of construction and maintenance. The result will be up to 133 flats in the Sants-Montjuïc, Ciutat Vella, Horta-Guinardó, Nou Barris, Sant Martí and Sarrià-Sant Gervasi districts.
Joint responsibility and sustainability are the foundations of cohousing
In an opinion article in El Periódico, Montaner insists priority will be given to two aspects when choosing the cooperatives: joint responsibility for managing community life, with plans for communal spaces, and commitment to a sustainable lifestyle, through measures such as energy saving, reducing consumption and using healthy materials.
“Making land available that is practically free (the cooperatives will pay a token amount) is the best contribution that the City Council can make to promote cohousing, besides offering technical support and advice on getting funding”, he says.
As he points out, we are talking about a “change of paradigm” included in the Right to Housing Plan (2016-2025), which envisages the construction of 535 cooperative dwellings by the time it ends and supports assignment for use as an alternative formula that avoids speculation and ensures user stability.
Cohousing in Barcelona
The search for alternative forms of housing has been an ever-present feature of Barcelona. In the course of the last decade, the Municipal Housing Trust has promoted leasehold: a way of gaining access to housing that is similar to buying, at below-market prices, while maintaining public ownership of the land.
Assignment of the right to use (also known as assignment of use) is another formula that the previous city government began to implement. In this case, housing construction, administration and maintenance is assigned to a cooperative, whose members have the right to access and use the flats or dwellings but they do not own them. The cooperative is the owner.
La Borda, in Can Batlló, and Sostre Cívic, in a building on C/ Princesa, started this new model. “The present city government want to systematise this model, while promoting a new generation of assigned-for-use housing cooperatives and creating Barcelona’s own formula for cohousing”, says Montaner.
Housing cooperatives: a long history
In his article, the Councillor for Housing reminds readers that there have been cooperatives in Catalonia since the 1950s and 1960s, when associations such as the Sagrat Cor de Jesús and Montseny built flats alongside the official promotions in an effort to deal with the housing crisis under the Franco regime. This movement continued in the Transition years with examples such as the Walden 7 building in Sant Just Desvern, designed by the architect Ricard Bofill.
The housing cooperatives that sprung up at the end of the 20th century, such as those set up by the Barcelona Federation of Residents Associations (FAVB) and the trade unions (CCOO and UGT), now exist alongside more modern associations that have appeared in recent years, such as La Borda and Sostre Cívic, which are adapted to the new times.
In the international sphere, the countries of northern Europe have always been the benchmark for cooperative housing. The Swedish government was one of the first to promote social housing and protection for tenants, while the Danish Andel model established itself as one to follow. In South America, the housing cooperatives in Uruguay combine housing policies with collaboration and mutual support between users.