The Barcelona Metropolitan Area will soon have a new tool at its disposal to contribute to the expansion of the public housing stock: Metròpolis Habitatge is the new metropolitan operator, which will enable the number of affordable rental houses to increase by collaborating with public and private institutions.
Metròpolis Habitatge will drive the development of 4,500 affordable publicly-owned flats in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area within a period of 8 to 10 years, which will be priced below the market value, between 400 and 600 euros. All of the housing will be protected. 75% will be rented out at an average of 7 euros per square metre, and the rest may be rented for up to 10 euros per square metre.
Barcelona City Council and Metropolitan Area will own 50% of the new joint enterprise, and the other half will remain in the hands of the private company (or group of companies) that wins the upcoming public bidding process.
This company will be required to have proven experience in housing management and its ability to foster the participation of tenants will be valued, by offering them, for example, the opportunity to become shareholders in the stock.
A non-speculative model
The lack of affordable housing is a problem that cannot be solved by public investment alone. The planned increase in housing stock demands a diversification of the managers and promoters involved. For this reason, a mixed model is being taken forward, which combines public administrations and private companies.
But, at the same time, the city wants to avoid the speculative component that usually accompanies activities relating to necessity goods like housing. The intention is to promote a non-speculative model of investment in the sector: the businesses that take part will have a profit limit of approximately 4% of the investment.
In return, these companies will collaborate in the creation of housing stock which will improve the quality of life of citizens. Any profits that exceed the aforementioned percentage will be reinvested in Metròpolis Habitatge.
Another aim of this model is to facilitate residents’ participation in the community, in addition to promoting values such as sustainability, energy saving, innovation and community participation, among others.
A new solution to an old problem
One of the main objectives of the 2015-2025 Barcelona Right to Housing Plan is to increase the publicly-owned rental pool. Therefore, 80% of more than 8,000 flats built over the next 10 years will be based on this model, with ownership of the land maintained by the public.
At the same time and in line with the best European benchmarks in affordable housing, public-private collaboration is also being stimulated through the creation of this venture, which will add 4,500 flats to the city’s affordable housing stock.
The problem surrounding the lack of publicly-owned rental housing, is not specific to Barcelona, but affects the whole metropolitan area and, therefore, requires combined and coordinated solutions from the administrating bodies. This is why the Metròpolis Habitatge project will be led in conjunction with Barcelona City Council and Metropolitan Area.
To ensure public leadership of the project, the municipal land that is made available will remain in public ownership, as will housing, and allocations will be carried out by the City Council through the Applicants Register. This will guarantee that all initiatives aim to benefit the whole of society.
Currently, Barcelona is suffering from a deficit caused by years of delays in powerful public housing policies and only has an affordable housing rate of 1.7%, far from the recommended 15%. With this in mind, the municipal government has given itself the objective of increasing housing, opting for publicly-owned rentals.
The public-private operators, upon which the Metròpolis Habitatge model is based, are key elements in the creation of a publicly-owned housing pool in many parts of Europe. Cities such as Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, and London have substantial public housing stock that benefits from intense public-private collaboration.
According to Housing Europe, 20% of housing in Austria is affordable, 17% in France and 33% in the Netherlands. As laid out in the 2016-2025 Right to Housing Plan, Barcelona wants to position itself amongst the best practices of the European leaders.