Spain is among the European countries with the least social and affordable housing, below 1.5% of the total housing stock. In Barcelona, housing rents have been rapidly increasing in the past few years and are already well above pre-crisis levels. Barcelona has seen a major shift in housing policies since the adoption of the City’s Right to Housing Plan 2016-2025.
One of the initiatives adopted by the Plan is the construction of more than 500 zero-equity cooperative housing units on public land through long-term leaseholds. This model differs from the traditional cooperative housing model in Spain, which grants cooperative members individual ownership of the housing units once housing construction is complete. The City of Barcelona partners with non-profit housing providers, including housing cooperatives, by providing public land to build on. The allocation of plots was usually done through competitive public tenders, a lengthy process that slowed down housing production and challenged the principle of cooperation that inspires most of the participating entities, forcing them to compete with one another and generating frustration among prospective residents.
Barcelona City Council has launched a new strategy based on a Framework Agreement between the City, the Catalan Association of Social Housing Managers (GHS), the Federation of Cooperative Housing (FCHC), the Social and Solidarity Economy Network (XES), as well as the Social Housing Foundations Coordinator (Cohabitac). Through this agreement, the different partners work with each other to propose projects, one per plot, to the city, which will then evaluate them following the principles of non-accumulation, local linkages, and affordability. The City and the entity proposed for each project will then sign a long-term lease on the land.
The Framework Agreement also envisions the development of joint financing tools and foresees the creation of an entity similar to a Community Land Trust that will allow to establish co-governance dynamics between the City Council, the housing providers and the resident population.
There are currently 4 zero-equity cooperatives built on public land in Barcelona. 2 more are currently under construction, while another 3 have already been allocated a plot of public land.
The Framework Agreement has already allocated 14 plots of land or buildings to be renovated, accounting for 567 housing units. These projects include the first senior cooperative housing project in the city as well as a project devoted to people with disabilities.
The Framework Agreement between the City and non-profit housing developers is the first of its kind in Spain and it represents the first public-community partnership in affordable housing.
From a public procurement perspective, the Framework reaches a balance between ensuring transparency and equal treatment among housing providers and giving them security and predictability to plan. This allows to shorten administrative procedures and reduce transaction costs. The project selection criteria include:
The Framework also sets the basis for the development of a Community Land Trust, which will eventually also include residents in the governance structure.