The Department of Housing in the Basque Country is repurposing unbuilt on plots originally intended for municipal facilities according to urban planning by-laws by reconverting them into accommodation with leases of up to five years. through this innovation they hope to help young or socially disadvantaged people to get access to the housing market.
The Basque Country is an autonomous region of Spain with around 2.2 millions inhabitants, and with a very limited supply of private or public rental accommodation. The average age for the residential emancipation of young people is over 30. In 2006, a model was developed to turn plots resulting from the application of urban planning standards into a new solution for housing, even of only temporary. These are plots originally intended for municipal facilities, most of which already exist in the Basque Country, but which are imposed by the mandatory application of urban planning by-laws, thus creating the Endowment Accommodation model.
The Department of Housing of the Basue Government hopes to share a little-known but effective formula that in recent years has allowed to offer new forms of living through a programme of endowments for temporary accommodation called Alojamientos Dotancionales, which enables the re-conversion of the unbuilt plots – originally intended for other types of construction that for various reasons will not be built on – into residential buildings.
The Basque Government currently has 459 accommodation units in seven buildings dedicated to this type of accommodation across seven municipalities and 212 are currently under construction and amounts to a total of 1789 units. This model has allowed many young people to gain autonomy by accessing housing where they can live independently. These dwellings have also made it possible to cope with certain types of social emergency housing needs. Today, the beneficiaries are no longer exclusively young people. In facet, one of the recent changes in the by-law governing this type of housing is that older people may access it for a limited period of time. In the case that they are homeowners, they make their homes available for social rental programs, and in return they access smaller and more suitable housing that meets their needs: accessible, equipped and modern. Meanwhile, other families can access larger housing under the social rental progammes. The recent development to enable older people to access this type of housing model marks its evolution towards publicly managed inter-generational co-housing and will also allow the release of other housing for social needs.
The main challenge is communication, both with town halls and municipalities and the end users of the accommodation units. To the former, clarification is needed sometimes since it is not conventional to develop residential buildings on land that it is not intentionally intended for, and to the latter it is important to clarify that the lease is not indefinite but rather a temporary solution for a maximum of five years. The Department of Housing has made great efforts to work with municipal technicians of the various communes and social services. If, after five years, tenants have not found a more permanent housing solutions, it is very difficult to manage their departure from their temporary accommodation. The first cases are now manifesting themselves. Most tenants are redirected to the standard housing policy solutions of the Department. Communication regarding the end o the contracts must therefore begin very early. Finally, common areas such as cooking and laundry facilities often generate problems of coexistence and sometimes security, which has led to the definitive closing of some of these common spaces.