New instruments regarding resources, operators and regulations
"Currently we can accept that there has been a certain paradigm shift on how to address housing issues, in the fact of admitting that we need new instruments and resources to solve the right of access to housing as well as to guarantee its social function", said Dolors Camats, Director of the Cooperativa Obrera d'Habitatges and moderator of the third session of the Municipal Housing Conference dedicated to new instruments regarding resources, operators and regulations.
To address the challenges of housing from different angles, the Catalunya Europa Foundation, together with the Office of Club de Roma in Barcelona and the la Fundació la Caixa have launched the Municipalist Conference on Housing, within the framework of the cycle "The transformation of the city ". The program has the support of the Barcelona City Council, the AMB, the Diputació de Barcelona, the Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Boi de Llobregat municipalities and the collaboration of the PEMB and Barcelona Global.
The round table was attended by the spokesperson for the Sindicat de Llogateres, Jaime Palomera, the director of Institutional Relations of Sogeviso, Antoni Sorolla, and the coordinator of the project development phase of Sostre Cívic, David Guardia.
In recent years, the debate on the importance of regulating rental prices as a concrete action with the capacity to generate a significant impact on the market has been very prominent. Jaime Palomera addressed this issue throughout his speech, noting that forty years ago, in a context of neoliberalism, the housing market also suffered from strong deregulation that caused prices to rise steadily between 1985 and 2012. A phenomenon globally influenced directly by the conception of housing as a financial asset, being a haven for speculative investments that were previously not available. This situation continues today, although in the last quarter of 2020 there was a moderate reduction in prices due to Covidien-19.
For this reason, short, medium and long-term policies are needed to reverse it and act on all fronts. As Palomera said, "neither magic formulas nor shortcuts, we must act on all fronts". A concrete example is Law 11/2020 on the containment of rental income, which is having a completely different effect from that predicted by opponents of this regulation. According to INCASOL, although the causes are varied, rental prices have dropped and the new contracts signed have increased. Palomera has called on several municipalities to take advantage of this regulation before the first week of June, declaring themselves as areas with a housing market, and has encouraged them to take advantage of other formulas to avoid market abuses and contribute positively to the expansion of the stock of protected and affordable housing, for example, through the potential offered by housing exchanges. Indeed, Toni Sorolla has emphasized the need to tend towards transversal housing policies, such as urban, economic, mobility or environmental policies.
Sorolla has agreed with Palomera that this transversality must flee from dichotomies and will be nourished by all the actors and existing resources. Thus, in Spain the budget for the public purchase of housing must be substantially increased, which currently stands at 0.1% of GDP while the European average stands at 0.6% -0.7%. And together with this budget, it is necessary for municipalities to acquire the appropriate competencies to be able to manage this problem, as the body closest to the citizen. However, the administration does not have enough capacity to be able to achieve these objectives, and it is in this framework that the trend towards public-private collaborations is drawn, attracting a private sector that is committed to affordable rent and that values ??the social return of its investments beyond profit. Sorolla highlighted as an example the Metropolitan Operator, a joint venture that has the participation of the AMB. However, while Sogeviso makes a positive assessment, the Tenant Union believes that more democratic control is lacking.
For his part, David Guardia has defended the role of cooperatives, such as Sostre Cívic, in increasing the stock of public and affordable housing, specifically the case of housing cooperatives in transfer of use. It is a model that is growing exponentially in Catalonia, which currently has 600 homes, but still has a long way to go, especially when compared to countries such as Uruguay or Quebec, which are close to 3% of the total. of dwellings, or Switzerland and Denmark, which reach 7% of the public stock. In this sense, Guardia affirmed that there are different options for collaboration between the administration and organized civil society, with different tenure regimes. Therefore, all these instruments must be explored to acquire housing that is currently on the free market and transform it into Official Protection Housing (VPO) or affordable housing. Like Palomera, Guardia assured that the democratic and non-profit tenure model, in which the people who live in the dwellings can participate directly in their management, is the most feasible way to ensure long-term containment of the house prices.
Continuing with this vision of the future, the three speakers highlighted that it is necessary to move towards a home that prioritizes rent, combating insecurity, temporality and the lack of solvency that this model supposes, as opposed to buying, through responses that are less circumstantial and more structural. Likewise, this change in perspective calls for coordinated responses among municipalities at the metropolitan scale.