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The right to access decent housing is a right recognised by law and the authorities at several levels: local, regional, national and international. The new Barcelona Right to Housing Plan (PDHB, in its Catalan acronym) aims to guarantee this right and provides for a 10-year period, from 2016 to 2025.
The aim behind the 2016-2025 Right to Housing Plan is to ensure the social function of housing and that the building of a public housing service goes ahead on a par with the best practices of other European cities.
The Plan sets out seven major challenges: some are linked to current problems, such as people's difficulties in meeting rent payments or the need to increase the public housing stock, whereas others have more to do with chronic problems such as young people's difficulties in finding a flat or main homes being replaced by tourist accommodation.
The 2016-2025 Right to Housing Plan is structured into four strategic action lines:
- Preventing and attending to housing emergencies
- Ensuring the proper use of housing
- Increasing the number of affordable flats
- Redeveloping the current housing stock
In contrast to previous plans, the aim during the preparation stage of the 2016-2025 Right to Housing Plan was to make public participation a priority, by organising public meetings to find out first hand the problems detected by the neighbourhoods' local residents. The current plan also incorporates a section with specific initiatives for each of the city's districts, which experience very different realities.
The total cost of the Plan comes to €2,973.2 million, €1,666.2 million of which are directly contributed by the City Council. The plan is awaiting approval from the Housing Council and the Full Municipal Council.
After being subject to a period of public information, a participatory process and requests for reports from the District Councils, the Right to Housing Plan 2016-2025 was approved at Full Council on January 27, 2017. View the news on the approval of the PDHB.
Challenges and action lines
Here you will find the main challenges of the 2016-2025 Right to Housing Plan, as well as the strategic lines and measures that have been developed to address them.
What are the challenges that need to be dealt with under the 2016-2025 Right to Housing Plan?
- Boosting mediation and help with rent payments, to enable housing access and maintenance
Prevention is the best mechanism for tackling situations where people are at risk of losing their housing. The city has several tools to make such prevention more effective and which require deeper exploration: information, mediation and financial aid.
- Preventing the replacement of housing and protecting residents
Barcelona has to help to maintain its regular housing and provide the opportunity for its local residents to continue living in their neighbourhoods. Pressure from tourism and other non-residential uses is causing a rise in prices and a reduction in available housing.
- Increasing the public housing stock
Having affordable housing is essential for meeting the needs of residents unable to access the free market. We need to move forward in our capacity to develop new affordable public housing in Barcelona, aimed mainly at renting.
- Mobilising the private stock towards affordable housing
Mobilising private housing enables affordable housing to be made available throughout the neighbourhoods, in areas where there is scarce housing available with official protection, while preventing concentrations of populations in vulnerable situations.
- Developing an active redevelopment policy that boosts the city's more vulnerable environments
Housing-maintenance problems particularly affect households with fewer resources, so the rise in social and economic inequalities has led to increased differences between residential conditions. To reverse these effects, we need to centre our public aid on residents with fewer resources and the more dilapidated territorial environments.
- Helping to ensure the social function of housing and to prevent anomalies in its uses
The Authority has to ensure housing meets its social function, in other words, that it provides the people residing in it with the necessary space, facilities and material means to satisfy their housing needs. The Authority has the duty to prevent anomalous uses such as housing that is found in an inadequate state of repair, permanently and unjustifiably unoccupied or with too many occupants.
- Preparing the city for an ageing population
Barcelona's population is going through an ageing process, according to demographic forecasts, which will worsen over the coming years. We need to prepare the city to address this process with initiatives that will enable elderly people to live as long as possible in their homes while creating housing with services where they can move to.
Preventing and attending to housing emergencies and residential exclusion
Our capacity for reversing and preventing housing emergencies will be key to ensuring a socially fair and balanced Barcelona. To accomplish this we not only have to deal with the present situation but also establish future foundations for preventing situations such as today's, where thousands of people have lost their homes. We will therefore have to deal with not just today's problems but also the new ones that are already being detected and which will be on the rise in the coming years, such as the increased differences between economic capacity derived from salaries and the cost of rented housing, or the ageing population.
The main lines of action here are as follows:
- Preventing residential exclusion
- Attending to people in the process of losing their homes
- Attending to people unable to access decent housing
Ensuring the proper use of housing
Housing is an essential aspect of the city, giving shape and identity to its neighbourhoods. We need to protect the regular use of housing from the pressure of other uses (such as tourism, offices or services), which are especially intense in certain areas of the city, and to prevent the disfunction arising from the excessive presence of different uses of housing.
We also need to reverse the trend of anomalous uses being made of certain flats, in particular the occurrence of empty and unoccupied homes, as well as substandard or overcrowded housing. We therefore have to launch measures to enable Barcelona's residents to continue living in their neighbourhoods and protect low and middle-income residents against expulsion, for economic reasons, from some of the cities environments.
Therefore, the Authority has the fundamental role of guaranteeing the proper use of housing through promotional measures and, where necessary, imposing sanctions for the improper use of housing or empty housing. We will also need to optimise the proper use of the public housing stock available in the city.
The main lines of action here are as follows:
- Mobilising empty housing
- Maintaining residential uses and residents
- Improving the knowledge and management of the public housing stock
Increasing the stock of affordable housing
Barcelona has to expand its stock of public housing to meet the population's housing needs. Article 73 of Act 18/2007 on the Right to Housing establishes the Urban Solidarity target for municipalities, including Barcelona, with a confirmed strong demand. According to this target, Barcelona would have to have a minimum stock by 2027 of 15% of the main housing allocated to social policies, which would correspond to close to 100,000 homes. The current situation with housing stock allocated to social policies makes it impossible to ensure this goal will be met under this Plan, as the current stock allocated to social policies is currently estimated at 50,000.
The new affordable housing stock will have to be created with several specific features:
- There will have to be diversification in the mechanisms, to expand the affordable housing stock (beyond the production of new housing) and allow for its distribution in as fair a way as possible among the city's various districts and to avoid any worsening of differences over the provision of social housing among the city's neighbourhoods.
- New housing has to deal not just with emergencies (linked to housing loss through repossession for defaulting on mortgage or rent payments or squatting) but also residents experiencing serious difficulties keeping their homes (or who have not even been able to access housing and reside in shared flats, inappropriate spaces or who have no home) and middle-income residents who also have difficulties accessing an available house.
- Efforts are being concentrated on occupancy schemes that ensure housing remains affordable over the coming years.
- The type of promotion to be developed will be evaluated according to type of beneficiaries, number of homes, types, flexibility, materials, origins of the property and promoting agent, among other things.
The main lines of action here are as follows:
- Increasing the current public stock
- Extending and improving rent subsidies
- Mobilising private housing towards affordable housing
- Boosting the social market
Maintaining, redeveloping and improving the current housing stock
Having a stock of residential housing in a good state of repair is essential for ensuring the quality of life of all the city's residents. Redeveloping, improving and updating the residential housing stock in Barcelona is the way to achieve this, while also enabling the quality and safety of the city's architectural heritage to be guaranteed; starting the energy transition, promoting efficiency, savings and generation of renewable energies; and reversing inequalities, through improved habitability and access to basic services.
The redevelopment policy implemented so far has focused on improving the urban landscape and communal elements of housing, in particular, facades, accessibility and structural safety, though it has dealt, to a lesser extent, with the needs of people living in the housing and the difficulties of intervention arising from their social and economic situation. This policy has enabled an important change to the image of the city and the building stock, though certain areas of the city, where the lower-income population live, continue to see concentrations of the main problems relating to housing conditions and new action mechanisms need to be developed in response.
To improve the current housing stock we need to implement initiatives along three basic lines:
- Increasing our knowledge of the conditions of the private housing stock
- Establishing a redevelopment policy with a more social focus
- Improving the redevelopment policy's capacity for intervening