The co-housing fashion paves his way in Barcelona

JÚLIA MORESO
GINA DURAN

Llegeix aquest contingut en català aquí
Translated by Álvaro Rodríguez Huguet

The town hall drives the creation of housing cooperatives handing over public plots to them for transfer of use scheme with the goal of ending the real estate agencies speculation

The housing’s cooperative La Borda has a space with washing machines and a games room. Víctor Navarro

Barcelona, as every other big city, has not a fixed tenants. Rents increased exponentially in the last years, and many people from Barcelona have to change neighbourhoods over time. David Lorente (graphic designer, 53 years old) does not imagine his life out of Barcelona: he’s been in different apartments, without feeling himself attached to the building, neighbours, and environs.

Now he’s excited to think that his family will be able to enjoy a new lifestyle. They discovered the housing cooperative CoHousing Barcelona four years ago and they went deep into the model of coexistence that defends the solid idea of housing being a right and not a transaction. That’s why, they propose a type of life that abolishes renting, making not possible its speculation. They think that the housing crisis in Barcelona has flown into the instability of the social relationships. They want to get back neighbourhood bonds, and they defend life in the community: buildings with many shared zones to economize space.

But they go further: David and his family are deciding in assembly’s meetings together with their future neighbours how it will be La Chalmeta, the building where they will live in the Marina del Prat Vermell, at the end of the next year. The model of cohousing bets for self-managing. The neighbours of La Chalmeta will not be owners of the flats they will live in, but through the cooperative that constitutes the building it will be collective. For that, they are gathering now with their architects to conceptualise it: economic, intergenerational, and energetically efficient. It will not be their property due to the model of cohousing in which these cooperatives work is the transfer of use. Meaning that the plot where is build La Chalmeta is owned by the Town Hall, that, by public bidding, transferred local plot to bet for the model of cooperative housing.

The multiple housing cooperatives that are growing in Barcelona want a social market of housing. This goal can be accomplished if the flats cannot be bought nor sold. The neighbours of La Chalmeta are designing the building jointly without thinking in how profitable it can be some day. They are only focused in the quality of life it can bring to them. “A cooperative is a life project and a process of constant dreaming,“ explains Maite Mas, future neighbour of La Balma.

“An apartment that will never be yours”
This project, managed by the pioneer cooperative Sostre Cívic (Civic Roof), is about to finish in Poblenou. “It’s very demanding,” says Maite, that belongs to the different commissions that self-manage the building (architectural, economic, external communication, health, environs). The economic one is in charge of the financing: the neighbours of La Balma have paid the deposit they agree it’s needed to settle the decided needs (30.000 euros). It’s a figure much lesser in comparison to the deposit of buying a flat, but higher than renting it. “You are paying an apartment that will never be yours,” says David. It’s a cost way lesser than the one that would cost in building a normal apartment since the plot has no need to be paid, ethical bank transfers loans and the architects belong to cooperatives.

However, there is a condition in the transfer of use of local plot: they have to be council flats (HPO), earmarked for people with a rather low income. The requirements to access to an HPO are demanding and they extend over time. To cohabit in Barcelona, you must have a reduced wage but 30.000 euros for the deposit: “having savings or helped by the family,” explains Maite. David remembers that “is a model that is worth in a long-term” because that is “thought for the future.”

La Borda
The personification of this model is La Borda, one of the first housing cooperative of the town, placed in the Sants neighbourhood. Its 30 neighbours passed the processes that Maite and David explain with vertigo. They live there for some time and keep believing in the model: why having 30 washing machines when you can dispose of a common laundry; multiple rooms for guests, empties most of the year, when you can share a whole flat for all the guests of the building. Some of the neighbours of La Borda were the architects of its building; now they are all a big family.

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