The Barcelona Housing and Renovation Forum has centred one of its sessions on speaking about innovation in public promotion of housing. This theme was discussed by the General Manager of the Barcelona Municipal Housing and Renovation Institute, Gerard Capó; the General Manager of EMVISESA in Seville, Felipe Castro; the General Manager of the Balearic Housing Institute, Cristina Ballester; and the CEO of Vassilakou Urban Consulting-Vienna Solutions, Maria Vassilakou. They described successful cases in Barcelona, Seville, the Balearic Islands and Vienna, respectively. The session was moderated by the journalist of El Periódico de España Analía Plaza.
Representing the IMHAB, Gerard Capó highlighted two innovative actions in public promotion. On the one hand, the homes of Can Fabra, constructed in building ‘G’ of an old factory in Sant Andreu. “The goal itself was innovative,” Capó said. He commented that main difficulty of the project was the ‘fit’ between what was old and what was new, an aspect that was solved by building the homes to be the least aggressive possible. The insertion of wood modules creating four floors enabled it to be made reversible. The General Manager of the IMHAB also pointed to the innovative architectural features of the project, such as the wood structure, which weighs five times less than steel structures, the dry construction system with couplings and the use of materials with low environmental impact. He also emphasised the social innovation of the building, with open communal spaces to facilitate contact between the neighbours.
On the other hand, Gerard Capó highlighted the APROP project of provisional accommodations of proximity. “This is one solution for tackling the housing emergency and is an element of innovation, rapidity and sustainability,” he said. There are currently in operation the APROP homes of Ciutat Vella, with a total of 12 accommodations, and there are two more projects in progress: one of 40 accommodations in the La Bordeta district in Montjuic and another of 42 accommodations in the Parc de la Llacuna district of El Poblenou in Sant Martí.
The need for innovation
The General Manager of EMVISESA, Felipe Castro, affirmed that “innovation is a necessary advance in housing policies” and described the case of Seville, where 22,000 affordable homes have been promoted and the rental housing stock has been increased by 2,800 homes. Castro said that innovation in public promotion here has had three aspects. In the first place, collaborative accommodations, with the aim of creating 516 accommodation units for special needs groups, such as the research, education or sporting communities, Sevillian emigrants returning home, and people under 35 and over 55. “The goal is to create a fabric that permits a social structure of exchange and at the same time has an effect on the amenities of the neighbourhood,” Castro said, going on to describe an example which EMVISESA already has in operation, the pilot project in Seville, Rue 32, with 32 homes. He also spoke about the city’s renovation projects and its exchanges with reaccommodation.
Sustainability and the circular economy, key agents
Turning to the Balearic Islands, the General Manager of the Balearic Housing Institute, Cristina Ballester, said that the public stock is being increased by more than 1,000 homes. There also 616 subsidised homes under construction, a project for 301 more subsidised homes is in the drafting stage, and 77 homes have been acquired by way of pre-emptive right. In order to attain these landmarks, Ballester emphasised that it is important to tackle the housing emergency, the climate crisis and energy poverty taking three aspects into account: social value, environmental value and economic value. “We have to give less importance to the economic offer and establish social and environmental clauses,” she said. “We have to create decent homes to contribute socially to a healthier society,” she added.
In this respect, Ballester placed importance on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to develop a circular economy. Ensuring access for everyone to homes and basic services that are appropriate, safe and affordable, and improving marginal neighbourhoods; promoting mental health and wellbeing; incorporating measures relating to climate change in policies; encouraging and promoting the creation of effective alliances in the public, public-private and civil society spheres; working for gender equality; achieving sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources and reducing waste generation by means of policies of prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse: these are some of the points Ballester focussed on. Some examples for attaining these goals which the Balearic Housing Institute is working on are the commitment to architecture with low environmental impact, reduction of generation of CO2 and consumption of resources and water, prioritisation of sustainable local materials of kilometre zero, promotion of urban mining projects and projects with gender perspective and incorporation of social clauses into contract specifications. “By aiming to increase the public housing stock we can contribute to activating industry in the Balearic Islands,” she added.
Vienna, a referent
The CEO of Vassilakou Urban Consulting-Vienna Solutions, Maria Vassilakou, explained the case of Vienna, one of the referents of the sector. Vassilakou said that Vienna is a city which is growing very rapidly, with some 25,000 new residents every year, and it is one of the world capitals of public and social housing. In fact, 62% of Viennese people live in social or public homes and the city invests more than 500 million euros a year and has an active land policy. Vassilakou explained that to achieve these levels, the strategic framework is quality of life, resources and the new technologies. The Eurogate district, constructed 100% with passive homes and using wood as the principal material, the Wooden City Breitenlee project or the Bike City and Bike & Swim City zones, and collaborative housing projects in which the tenants participate in the planning process, are some examples of Vienna’s style and philosophy. “When we speak of innovation in social housing we also speak of quality of life,” she said. “We build neighbourhoods. We focus very strongly on the architectural quality of the buildings, but also on the quality of the public space,” she added.