Developers build 150 social flats a year in Barcelona thanks to new regulations

The change, approved in 2018, requires 30% of buildings to be allocated to social housing in large developments

3 min
A large housing development

BarcelonaThere is already a balance of one of the most controversial regulations promoted by the municipal government of Ada Colau. In December 2018, thanks to votes from Barcelona en Comú, ERC, PSC and CUP, the Barcelona City Council approved a modification of the General Metropolitan Plan to force large developers to allocate 30% of new buildings to social housing. According to the text, this reserve of 30% of housing only has to be applied when the new housing development (or the complete refurbishment of existing housing) occupies an area of over 600 square metres in consolidated urban land. The aim was that it would only affect big constructors.

Although it has been two and a half years since the regulation was passed, it was not possible to make a careful assessment until now, since, in exchange for the support of ERC and PSC in the City Council vote, the city council had to give up the application of a suspension of licenses to give owners more time to continue building without having to allocate 30% to social housing. It was finally agreed that those who had bought the plot between 2016 and the initial approval of the measure would have two years to apply for permits to build homes without being affected by the change. In addition, all owners were given six more months to apply for a license.

After this period, according to the balance of the City Council to which ARA has had access, it is estimated that private developers will build 150 social flats this year thanks to the new regulations. Since 2016, 80 files have been processed to build 1,299 homes in large developments. From this total, 57 (which would have allowed 425 flats to be built) have to be deducted because they were able to take advantage of the exception approved in the vote. Thus, the regulation can be applied to the remaining 23 files, which plan to build up to 308 homes in the coming months, of which 120 will be social housing. Taking into account the current crisis and the pace of construction, the City Council estimates that during this year big developers will have built 150 social housing flats. "The measure is already beginning to bear fruit, now that the period of exception that ERC and PSC requested is over," says Janet Sanz, deputy mayor of Urbanism. From her point of view, one of the most important aspects of the new regulation is that it promotes the co-responsibility "of the private sector in guaranteeing the right to housing".

No deceleration in flat construction

Once the new regulations were approved, large developers criticised a measure that directly affected them, and even assured that the obligation to have to build social flats would slow the building of flats in the city and that, therefore, it would be counterproductive. Two and a half years later, the data show that these fears were exaggerated. Since the implementation of the rule the number of licenses granted for free housing (i.e. not social housing) is similar to that of other years. In 2016, 1,668 free housing licenses were processed, in 2017 there were 1,823 and in 2018 there were 2,526. After approving the controversial measure, during 2020 and taking into account the pace that expected for 2021, the average number of licenses granted will be 2,119 per year. These data are not only of large promotions, but include all housing licenses given, but show that the trend of creating new apartments in the city is maintained. Sanz also stressed that "the city is moving" and that during the pandemic housing construction has not decreased, so that "the forecasts are positive"

In Catalonia only 1.5% of the housing stock is public, while the European average stands at 15%