A public-private entity that builds affordable housing, a programme to rent private flats at lower-than-market prices, an organisation that collects Barcelona housing data… The City Council presented some of its most innovative housing projects at the Smart City Expo World Congress.
This conference about intelligent cities, the most important one in the world, took place at the Fira de Barcelona from November 13th to the 15th. This eighth edition was attended by 21,000 people, 844 companies, representatives of 700 cities around the world, and more than 400 speakers.
The objective of the conference was to serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas in order to collectivise urban innovation from around the world. In this context, Barcelona highlighted the importance of housing policies, as a means to address some of the most important challenges facing cities.
For this reason, the consistory together with the City Council of New York has launched a contest within the framework of Smart City, for ideas on how to build affordable housing more efficiently. In addition, Barcelona set up an exhibition stand at the conference with information on its housing policies, and organised several discussions on some of the most innovative measures it is carrying out.
Habitatge Metròpolis Barcelona
The Housing Manager for the Barcelona City Council, Javier Burón, presented a new tool at one of the Habitatge Metròpolis Barcelona (HMB) conferences, which is being created by the consistory and the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona to help build affordable rental housing.
This entity will be public-private: the City Council and the Metropolitan Area will own 50%, while the other half will be in the hands of a private company (or a group of companies) that will obtain a limited benefit.
HMB’s aim is to build 4,500 public rental flats with lower-than-market prices in the metropolitan area of Barcelona in a period of 8 to 10 years. This is intended to respond to the sharp rise in rent prices that has taken place in recent years.
“We are creating this tool because in Barcelona we do not have a well-developed social rental sector,” said Burón. According to the municipal official, the metropolitan affordable housing operator is based on a model that is already being applied in other European cities, such as Vienna, and is key in the creation of its social housing developments.
The Barcelona Rental Housing Pool
The City Council’s director for the appropriate use of housing, Gerard Capó, explained how the Barcelona Rental Housing Pool works. This programme is dedicated to getting privately owned homes to be rented at lower-than-market prices.
In return, the home owners enjoy many benefits: they are guaranteed the monthly rent payments, they can qualify for grants of up to 20,000 euros to renovate their flat, they have various economic and tax incentives available as well as a multi-risk insurance, and they are provided with advising and support in order to carry out the procedures involved.
According to Capó, the consistory chose this social rental programme and therefore increased its budget and resources for the year 2016. Thanks to this, the 633 homes that made up the Pool during that year rose to 767 the following year, an increase of 21%. This year, growth has continued and the programme now manages around 850 flats.
Through this initiative, the aim is to respond to the lack of affordable rental housing in the city: while the average cost of a private rental is 13.21 euros per square meter, the price for the flats in the Pool is 9.18 euros, 30% less.
The Metropolitan Housing Observatory of Barcelona
Finally, another conference took place at the Metropolitan Housing Observatory of Barcelona (O-HB), a new organisation dedicated to collecting and analysing data related to metropolitan area housing in order to obtain a reliable view.
According to Anna Belén Sánchez and Aleix Arcarons, technicians of the organisation, the main objectives of the O-HB are to support the design of effective public policies and to make the data generated available to the public.
This project, promoted by the Barcelona City Council, the Metropolitan Area, the Provincial Council and the Government of Catalonia, regularly analyses data on housing, the constructions and renovations that are being carried out, the real estate market, problems of permanence, access and maintenance of housing, etc.
On the other hand, the Observatory conducts studies on more specific phenomena, such as the home ownership structure in Barcelona. According to this research, 0.2% of property-owning people or entities acquire almost 10% of the flats of the city.