Colau's strong push for public housing fails to deliver on all promises

The City Council now has 2,239 flats under construction and expects to end the term with a municipally managed total of 12,000 flats

3 min
Ada Colau during the laying of the first stone in a new development in the Marina del Prado Rojo neighbourhood

BarcelonaThe accountability for the promise to build 4,000 public rental housing units and to add 4,000 more through purchase or transfer accompanied the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, during her first period at the head of the City Council. The dance of figures between government and opposition about what was being done and the accusations of having sold the impossible were repeated in almost every plenary session. And they are still going on. The then head of Housing, Josep Maria Montaner, detailed at the beginning of the mandate that they had been able to hand over the keys to some 830 new-build flats but that they had laid the foundations so that in the following mandate there could be an acceleration, with 4,700 homes at some point in the production process. In fact, in the housing plan they presented in 2016, they set themselves the challenge of building almost a thousand flats a year: 8,854 new homes by 2025. And now the government of comuns and socialists in the city boasts that it is leading this acceleration and says it has 2,329 flats under construction or about to start them.

"More public housing is being built than ever before", emphasised the mayoress at the groundbreaking ceremony for one of the new developments in the Marina del Prat Vermell neighbourhood. In total there are 34 promotions underway or about to start and an investment of 316 million. The city, according to the municipal government, has achieved a "historic milestone" with this rate of generation of public apartments, when in the last 17 years between 500 and 800 were made per term, although some veterans of the house cool the euphoria and remarked that the pace had been higher during the 90s and early 2000s - socialist sources point out that they had come to make 1,100 a year. The substantial change is that the rental regime is now imposed to ensure that the public stock grows.

If all possible ways of generating housing are added, the council calculates that it will end this term, in 2023, with a park of about 12,000 public rental apartments, when in 2015 it was 7,500. This is a more than noticeable step forward, but it falls short of the promise to double the municipally managed fleet in two terms of office and, therefore, to reach 15,000. "We are getting closer", said the mayor, who has detailed that now the stock the council manages has about 10,000 homes, 2,500 more, therefore, that when the comuns entered the council.

The municipal government, however, has not specified how much new work has been built so far and defends that since 2015 it has been working with the forecast of 6,100 flats to be developed in 2023 through different means, such as construction delegated to cooperatives, and that the final figure, if operations such as the 900 flats that have been bought so far are added, will be close to 8,000 homes. "Not all of them will be finished by 2023", remarked the Councillor for Housing, Lucía Martín. The package also includes the first flats of the future metropolitan operator, which will be built in alliance with a private company. The tender to choose a partner must be resolved before the summer. And Colau has once again today called for more involvement from the government in the construction of housing.

The new neighbourhood of the Marina

As for the new developments underway, around 80% of the public housing is being rented and the rest will be divided into co-housing, flats with surface rights - the successful bidders buy the right to use the flat for 75 years - and those being built to rehouse those affected by urban transformations, such as the Casas Baratas del Bon Pastor. The largest number of these are being promoted in the Marina del Prat Vermell - 446 - in the Zona Franca, where a new neighbourhood is being built which, in the first phase, is estimated to house some 10,000 residents, between public and private developments, and which could later grow to 30,000 or 40,000.