During the first day of visits of the 48 Hours Open House, visitors were able to enter several emblematic buildings in Barcelona. Among them, the first building in the city to be developed by a cooperative on municipal land. This was one of the most successful visits on the first day of the festival, where the cooperative housing building in transfer of use attracted a large number of people, who were able to learn not only about its physiognomy and architectural characteristics, but also its community-run management and operation model.
Apart from La Borda, the Cases Barates of Bon Pastor development, and the housing of Can Fabra and Carrer Tànger, could be visited. They were all developed by the Municipal Institute of Housing and Renovation (IMHAB).
A home adapted to people Members of the LaCol cooperative led the visit of the building, presenting the details of this cohousing project. Among them was Carles Baiges, who explained how the building is designed to facilitate interaction between neighbours, with common areas to host activities for all La Borda residents. One of the common areas includes a guest room that can be reserved via a mobile application and is available to all residents. The building also has a shared laundry area.
It was highlighted that La Borda has flats of different dimensions, from 40 to 75 square metres, and that the monthly price paid by residents depends on the size of their flat. But the most surprising thing is that the flats are designed so the dimensions of each home can be modified based on the needs of the building residents. The homes have movable walls that can be relocated so that a room belonging to one flat can become part of another. “People don’t adapt to housing, housing adapts to people,” says Baiges.
To manage the building, the neighbours have divided tasks into commissions: “there is a commission for communication; architecture, which is now maintenance; and for secretariat; economy; and communal living, which are those that manage conflicts and try to improve the cohabitation,” Baiges explained during the visit.
Accessing cooperative housing In La Borda, there are residents of all ages, from retirees to young people of 20 years, since, as Baiges explains, diversity is an aim. “If the next flat that opens up is within 20 years, we will probably look for the youngest person on the waiting list, since we are looking for shared living among residents of different profiles,” he says. When one of the La Borda homes becomes free, the building residents have priority if someone wants to change flats. What remains empty is made available to the people on the waiting list. This list is managed through the same cooperative.
Cohousing: an expanding model Cooperative housing is a model with a strong tradition in northern Europe. In Barcelona, La Borda was the first new cohousing development to be launched. However, we do find cases like the project developed by Sostre Cívic on Carrer Princesa, where a comprehensive renovation was carried out. The La Borda building was built on a municipal lot granted by the Barcelona City Council, thanks to a public tender where the IMHAB proposed a total of seven lots to be allocated to cohousing.
One of the cohousing projects underway in Barcelona is that of La Balma, in Poble Nou, which is also promoted by Sostre Cívic. Just last September, the inauguration of the works took place and it is estimated that the building will be completed in 18 months, at which point the residents can move in. This model is based on the transfer, by the City Council or a private owner, of an unused lot or site where the building will be constructed. The members of the cooperative pay an entrance fee and a monthly amount, at a lower-than-market price. The tenants are entitled to live at the address for life, but they will not be owners, since the property belongs to the cooperative. If any member leaves the project before starting to live there or leaves the flat later, the total amount of the entrance fee is returned. As a characteristic feature, cooperative housing promotes the shared use of basic infrastructure and creating spaces that promote community life, as well as meeting environmental and sustainability criteria.