New financing tools, cooperation between all the administrations and the regeneration of areas are some of the challenges presented today by the Councillor for Housing and Rehabilitation, Lucía Martín. She did so at the ‘The Effects of Population Growth and the 2030 Agenda for Housing’ Conference, organised by the Gremi de Constructors d’Obres de Barcelona i Comarques (Guild of Major Works Constructors of Barcelona and Counties), the Fundació Cercle d’Infraestructures (Infrastructure Foundation Circle) and Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (Architects’ Association of Catalonia), at which the future of housing and action plans for the protection of people, the planet and prosperity were discussed.
The focus of Lucía Martín’s contribution to the conference was on explaining the successful measures that Barcelona City Council has implemented and on new challenges, both for the present and for the future. In this regard, Martín pointed out that it is necessary for larger urban centres to have greater capacity, greater influence and a larger presence when defining public policies. “We in Barcelona need to demand innovative, courageous and daring policies in order to leave the past mistakes behind. We must focus on what works in cities and in neighbouring states.” she said.
The Councillor highlighted the creation of the Observatori Metropolità de l’Habitatge de Barcelona (Metropolitan Housing Observatory of Barcelona), a key organisation for the evaluation and design of public housing policies both for the present and in the future. She also defended the work of the last four years with the commitment to municipal investment in housing which, in the previous term, amounted to 500 million euros. A budget that, as Lucía Martín noted, was largely given over to the expansion of the public housing stock in the city. However, the Councillor stated that it is essential to reverse the cuts in housing budgets both of the Generalitat and the Spanish State. “If we really want to change housing policies, as has been done up until now, we need funding. We need more financing tools in order to allocate funds to affordable housing.” In this regard, Martín also wanted to highlight the issue of taxation. “The key is the state. We must not forget that housing policies have been largely governed by taxation. It can’t be that we don’t have the subsidies for the creation of affordable housing or for regeneration.”
Cooperation with private agents and administrations
One of the other topics that Lucía Martín emphasised at the conference was cooperation with private agents, those who aren’t looking to speculate, in order to bring them into the creation and management of rented housing, something that still has some way to go. “In this second term we want to continue working on this, but to do so we need the involvement and support of the other administrations. As a city we have a lot of potential and networking is key. We need other municipalities to join in with these types of innovative policy.”
Solutions to combat the housing emergency
The Councillor also highlighted various measures to cope with the housing emergency and to protect the right to housing. Firstly, with the launch of the eviction mediation unit and the anti-harassment unit. “At the City Council, we fully understand the current situation. We have put resources in place to combat the housing emergency, against the abuses we are seeing and all the effects that property speculation has on the city.” she said. Secondly, with the implementation of the APROP project, the construction of temporary buildings constructed using recycled, fully attachable maritime shipping containers, “an innovative, fast, sustainable and comfortable building solution.”
Renovation, a key element in the future of housing
Within the context of the climate emergency, the Councillor wanted to make special mention of renovation. “Renovation must play a more important role. We must commit to compact, well-integrated cities in which sustainable materials are used. We have a lot of ground to cover.” Lucía Martín stressed the need to promote a cultural change where renovation is also understood as a question of combating climate change, improving health, guaranteeing the right to housing and the right to energy.
With an eye on the gender perspective
Coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day, Lucía Martín took the opportunity to appeal for the incorporation of gender perspectives in both general public policy and in housing policy. “There are women who have carried out interesting projects and initiatives who must be given a voice and who must be represented in the sector.” she said. Regarding this point, the Councillor was somewhat self-critical, stating that Barcelona City Council also has a long way to go: “From the architectural point of view, we have to consider what kind of housing we are creating, whether we are designing housing based on of gender and traditional families, or if we are creating homes that are more flexible and adaptable.” These questions have already begun to be analysed and considered through an analysis prepared by the Institut Municipal de l’Habitatge i Rehabilitació de Barcelona (Barcelona Municipal Institute of Housing and Renovation). “I hope we can make a qualitative leap forward in this term.” she stated.
Lucía Martín didn’t want to end without highlighting the potential for the city of Barcelona and delivering an optimistic message for the present and the future. “We have come from a complex situation and in recent years have made a 180 degree turn with respect to previous policies in order to guarantee citizens the right to housing.” she said.