Architects' alert cry: construction does not recover

Visas are still well below pre-pandemic levels and rehabilitation is still at a very low level

2 min
Construction of public housing in the PISA building in Cornellà.

BarcelonaThe construction sector has not recovered its pre-pandemic levels. The Architects' Association of Catalonia confirms it in the report of the work visas presented this Thursday. The whole of the area approved in Catalonia continues to fall. The little more than two million square meters approved are 1.5% less than the first half of last year and 15% less than the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic, when almost 2.4 million square meters were approved.

This is not the only problem that architects see in the construction sector. In the presentation of the report they have indicated that rehabilitation, despite a small growth, remains at very low levels. During the first half of the year, 557,791 square metres of refurbishment projects were approved, 4.9% more than the same half of last year. "It is still evident the lack, on the one hand, of rehabilitation culture and, on the other hand, of a firm commitment of the administration to carry out urban renewal and rehabilitation policies in response to the climate emergency", says the College of Architects.

According to the College of Architects, the building stock of Catalonia is aged and 70% is over 40 years old. And it recalls that the European Next Generation funds are an opportunity to promote rehabilitation, but with the visas of the first half of the year everything suggests that they will not be able to start using them until 2022. In addition, architects complain about the delay with which municipalities grant building permits, which, moreover, with the pandemic has worsened. Two years ago, according to the survey that the College takes to its members, the average duration of the proceedings was 5.7 months and now it has risen to 7.4 months, when the law requires a maximum of two months. That is, this delay indicates that most of the projects that are now endorsed by the College began procedures between 2019 and 2020. "With the expected recovery that represents the arrival of the Next Generation funds, it is important to solve this problem", highlights the College.

The vast majority of the municipalities that are in the worst situation are located in the province of Barcelona, where usually more projects and more surfaces are built. The municipality that leads the maximum waiting time for obtaining licenses is Sant Cugat del Vallès, with an average of almost 13 months, followed by Cardedeu and Catellbisbal, with about 12 months. Municipalities such as El Vendrell, El Prat de Llobregat, Badalona, Rubí, Mataró, Sitges, Palafrugell and La Roca del Vallès range between 9 and 11 months. The provincial capitals do not have much better figures either: Barcelona has an average of 8 months, Tarragona almost 9, Lleida just over 6 and Girona 7.

The exception of the city of Barcelona

The report notes that in Catalonia as a whole, despite the housing emergency, the construction of new homes grows very little, 2.87%, while the rest of the buildings falls by 11.35%. In spite of this generalized tendency, the city of Barcelona shows a singular evolution, since the housing visas grew by 84.54%. The key to this growth, according to the College, is that the projects that processed the license before the rule of dedicating 30% of new developments to social housing came into force. This fact caused that there was an avalanche of requests of licenses of the promoters the months before it entered in force to avoid this norm.