Guaranteeing housing: a metropolitan challenge

Illustration © Cinta Fosch

Barcelona has always been a welcoming and appealing city. It is no wonder that its residents state, in poll after poll, that they would like to continue to do so. And their children do too. Nevertheless, this desire is becoming increasingly more expensive, and many people have to forsake this aspiration because they cannot afford to pay the price of housing.

Population growth and the emergence of Barcelona as a global city capable of attracting more and more visitors, investors and foreign residents have sent demand soaring. With not enough land to meet this demand, the gap between housing needs and the capacity to generate new housing is widening. In recent years, additional stress factors have exacerbated this state of affairs, such as the influx of international investment funds, the allocation of some of the existing housing stock to tourism uses, and the growing presence of new temporary foreign residents who choose Barcelona drawn by the attractions it has to offer.

This scenario drives prices steadily upwards, so that the cost of having a home, whether renting or buying, consumes an ever-growing share of household income. The lack of affordable housing has become a new inequality factor: lower incomes have to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on household expenses. Tenants are particularly vulnerable, as they have had to cope with price increases far above wage increases, and housing instability has become a new vulnerability factor. One of the many consequences is the delay in the emancipation of young people. Several studies alert that the situation is going to get worse when current generations of tenants reach retirement age with no assets and insufficient pensions to cope with market prices.

Guaranteeing the right to housing is one of the main challenges big cities are up against. Thanks to new legislation and Next Generation EU funds, Barcelona has the opportunity to turn the situation around within the framework of a metropolitan policy. It will be no easy feat, since the accumulated deficiencies are substantial and building social housing calls for time and investment. The goal is to mobilise all possible resources in a public-private partnership to redress the inertia of a market that is unable to meet social housing needs.

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