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Barcelona Study Visit 2018

by | Dec 10, 2018

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Barcelona Study Visit – September 2018

On Tuesday, 25 September and Wednesday, 26 September, a group of 13 housing professionals from the EFL member community visited the City of Barcelona. The group was composed by housing practitioners from our membership base: Eigen Haard (Amsterdam), Paris Habitat (Paris), Vilogia (Lille), Polylogis (Paris), and 1892 (Berlin), supplemented with academic researchers from EFL’s university community and our associate architect, Tafkaoo.

In Catalonia, there are about 60,000 affordable rental units. That is 2% of the total park, which is still clearly inadequate. The figures indicate that 230,000 social housing units are needed to reach European average standards. It is estimated that there are 450,000 empty homes (100,000 in the hands of financial entities, 80,000 homes for new construction and 270,000 homes for private individuals).  This forms a potential base for enlarging the social housing stock.

The first day started with a visit to Casa Bloc Habitat 3 , during which the realisation of affordable homes within the existing housing stock was explained. The municipality of Barcelona supports the temporally transition of vacant homes into affordable and social housing as one of the means to respond to the huge need for affordable housing in the city. The foundation Habitat 3 acquires empty homes from private owners for a period between 3 and 5 years. The homes are acquired for circa 80% of the market value and subsequently rented out to people with low incomes. The candidates are provided by the municipality. The foundation Habitat 3 collects the rents of the residents and takes care for both technical, social and administrative management. The private owner of the properties receive each month the rent.

The HABITAT Foundation3 has as a fundamental objective, according to its Statutes, to seek and obtain rental housing at prices below market price:
To be used for people or families in situations of serious difficulty in accessing a home or at risk of residential exclusion.
To facilitate the entities of the social sector and their residential care projects aimed at people at risk of social exclusion. One  of the goals is to collaborate in labor insertion programs of specialized entities, through rehabilitation projects by collaborating in accompanying programs through the provision of housing for these purposes. Carry out the social management and supervision of housing for inclusion or social rental.


Project @22 Barcelona

In 2000 the Barcelona City Council approved a new urban planning ordinance aimed at transforming the old industrial area of Poblenou, with obsolete factories that had long ago been abandoned or were simply not very productive, into a magnet for new activities. This new ordinance allowed for a new land designation called 22@, which substituted the traditional industrial designation 22a. So, terrain in the 22@ zone, which is basically the whole south-eastern quadrant of the city, from Gran Via to the beltway and from the Olympic Village to Rambla de Prim, which is the equivalent of 115 blocks in the Eixample, allows more construction, more public spaces or green areas and subsidized housing as long as the previous industrial activity is replaced by offices or other business services and equipment related to new technology and knowledge. The goal is to encourage land owners to update obsolete urban planning elements from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries while maintaining economic activity, which would not have happened with a traditional rezoning from industrial to residential designation. 

22@Barcelona is building a new compact city, where the most innovative companies co-exist with research, training and tech transfer centers, as well as housing (4,000 new subsidized residences), facilities (145,000 m2 of land) and green areas (114,000 m2). This model city coexists with the neighborhood’s industrial heritage thanks to the Industrial Heritage Protection Plan, written jointly by 22@Barcelona and the Barcelona City Council, which conserves 114 elements of architectural interest. 

The 22@Barcelona project fills the city’s need to recover both economic and social dynamism in the old industrial areas of Poblenou and to create a diverse and compact environment where productive spaces coexist with research, training and tech transfer centers, as well as subsidized housing, facilities and green areas that improve the quality of work and life in the neighborhood. 

22@Barcelona provides a new, high quality, diverse, ecologically efficient and economically strong urban model that strikes a balance between production and neighborhood life.

The 22@Barcelona project is strongly in favor of mixing production spaces with new housing in order to allow people to live close to their workplace, foster the development of local commerce and guarantee vitality in public spaces throughout the day. 

This way the project restores more than 4,600 traditional houses that were built in industrial areas and have been affected since 1953, when the Regional Plan established an exclusively industrial use for all the city’s productive land. With the new 22@ designation, the presence of these houses has been normalized for the first time in the last fifty years and this allows them to be restored. It also promotes the construction of 4,000 subsidized housing units, favoring social diversity in Poblenou and guaranteeing the vitality of all streets and public spaces throughout the day. In general, for the whole are it is proposed to realize 30% social or subsidized housing. Most of these homes will be in public hands.

Up to December 2011, the 22@Barcelona project has finished more than 1,300 new subsidized housing units, and more than 500 units are in construction or under license granted.


Public spaces

The 22@Barcelona project devotes 10% of the previously industrial land, which was mainly privately held, to the creation of more than 114,000 m² of new public spaces and green areas, and establishes a high standard of quality in its streets. 

Public space is a support element for the urban fabric, for relationships and activities, and because of this, it is one of the basic guidelines for the city’s configuration. For this reason, the structure of the Poblenou green areas has been proposed according to a sequence of measurements in which the large open spaces – Litoral Park, the future Plaça de les Glòries, Central Park, etc.- extend gradually toward squares and smaller streets with houses, becoming true meeting places for residents. 

The street subtly modifies its route in order to improve both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. On one hand, this reduces traffic problems in Poblenou by defining a reduced number of main streets, which carry the majority of private vehicles as well as public transportation, and a larger number of secondary streets, with minimum traffic flow, used to access buildings. 

On the other hand, it introduces a new standard in urban planning that optimizes pedestrian routes, improves visibility and security conditions at crosswalks and increases accessibility for those with reduced mobility. At the same time, it widens sidewalks to seven meters in order to encourage foot traffic and help develop commerce near the corners, since they form a wider octagon than the traditional Barcelona corners in the Eixample. 

On the second day, 26 September, the city council for housing Mr Josep Montaner and the general manager of the housing department of Barcelona, Mr. Javier Búron, went into detail about the current housing situation in Barcelona and the newly created public housing company Metropolis Habitatge Barcelona. Given the high demand for social and affordable housing, and a low supply of only 2% of the whole housing stock, the city adapted a new policy to fight this situation.

Metròpolis Habitatge Barcelona  


  • Generate between 3.000 and 4.500 new dwellings targeted to the affordable rental housing sector.
  • To launch a new rental sector: affordable rentals, a non existing supply, different to social and market rental.
  • Partners: • 25%. Barcelona Municipality (AjBCN) • 25%. Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) • 50%. Private partner, which will join both as shareholder and manager.

Currently (autumn 2018), the city of Barcelona is looking for a private partner to take over 50% of the shares of the public housing company. This partner is also to be expected to plan the realisation of 4.500 new affordable homes, manage the properties and take care for the rentals.

The houses to be built will have an average used surface area of 70 sqm. A parking space and storage room will also be built for each house, as well as retail spaces. The main purpose of the project is to increase the amount of affordable rental houses. Therefore houses will be rented for affordable rental prices with an average rent of 7 €/month/m2 (75% units) and 10 €/month/m2 (25% units). Parking and storage room will be at 50% of this rental price. 3000 – 4500 houses. Further development will be achieved through future capital injections into the company. The expected private partner’s volume of investment can be ranged around 100 millions (for the first 3000 houses). To be provide in years 1, 3 and 5 of the undertaking.


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