The Barcelona City Council finally started the rehabilitation of many of the residential buildings that it bought in the previous term. We are talking, among others, about Robador 33, Hospital 116, Lancaster 7, 9 and 11... The government of Mayor Ada Colau ordered the acquisition of these farms, mainly in the Ciutat Vella district to stop various gentrification processes. They were highly publicized and symbolic operations, another example of the fight of the government of Mayor Colau against real estate speculation.
They are stories that started in the first bars of the previous term. Then, the City Council expropriated the twenty homes on Robador 33, alleging that their owners were letting them fall apart. The tenants assured that they wanted to kick them out to set up tourist apartments. Meanwhile, a controversial real estate agency took over three battered buildings on Lancaster Street to reform them and put a handful of high-end apartments on the market. And also at that time, the residents of the 17 floors of Hospital 116 denounced that Sareb was trying to evict them. Many of the tenants of these farms were in very difficult situations. At the time of its purchase, these properties were already very battered. Their previous owners had abandoned them five years after another.
The problem is that the City Council has not revealed itself all these years as a particularly decisive landlord. The different obligations and guarantees that any action by the public administration entails delayed these tremendously expected works to the point of exasperation. And the truth is that the Consistory was not always particularly diligent. The tenants of these homes suffered infestations of bedbugs and rodents, blackouts that lasted for weeks, sewage overflows every two by three... Yes, in Hospital 116, as soon as it rained more than usual, the toilets overflowed and the dark Water cascaded down the stairs.
Most of the tenants of these farms, finally relocated to other municipal housing, are now delighted, but then not a few lamented that "look, with the investment funds on top we lived better." If the owner of these properties had been a private person, the Consistory would have punished him harshly for such abandonment of his responsibilities.
And the truth is that these rehabilitations finally underway are not the result of an improvised political decision before the proximity of the municipal elections. In fact, the City Council will not finish these works until well into the next term. And in reality, the very tiresome deadlines for these works had already been looming a few years ago, more or less. In these cases, what is most attributable to the municipal government is perhaps its lack of speed, and sometimes even sensitivity, in the face of the daily sorrows of its tenants.
Sources from the City Council detail that once the Consistory acquires a housing estate, it has to evaluate its condition and consider what rehabilitation it needs to adapt it to the standards of the public housing stock. "In case there are neighbors, the local administration subrogates the rental contracts and regularizes their situations - municipal sources abound -. While the rehabilitation works last, the City Council has the obligation to guarantee an adequate, dignified and close rehousing, and complying with these requirements depends on the availability of housing in the area. Depending on the circumstances, it may require longer terms.
In addition, the sources of the Consistory add, "once the relocation of the families is guaranteed, the administrative process is opened to carry out the rehabilitation works, from preparing a preliminary project to the tenders first of the executive project, and after the works, a process that it can take more than a year and that, when faced with estates as old and with as many requirements as so many in Ciutat Vella, it can still be more complex”.
The wait was so bitter that in the meantime the municipal executive modified its strategy regarding the acquisition of residential buildings. Barcelona City Council continues to buy flats. Since 2016, it has been made with around a thousand. But for some time now, many of the farms that he acquires are in much better condition, they are less problematic, they disturb the sleep of the common people much less. They do not require so many works, they hardly have squats, they do not have entrenched drug floors... The most critical voices with the public purchase of real estate, mainly those of investors and intermediaries who understand that the City Council is competing with them unfairly, making excessive use of of the right of first refusal and retraction, they insist that the City Council is paying exaggerated amounts in these operations, that it has already bought up new-build properties and also others of a much higher-than-average quality, and that for all that money it could offer many more social flats in other parts of the city.
The Colau government, however, replies that this way it can offer public housing throughout Barcelona, including the densest and most central neighborhoods, where it is most difficult to find a plot, where real estate voracity manifests itself in a harsher way. And he emphasizes that these operations are carried out mainly below market prices.
In any case, the City Council is also trying to find new samples of public-private collaboration that do not put it in more alleys. In this way, he recently reached an agreement with the owners of a degraded estate on Calle Sant Climent, also in Ciutat Vella, in the Raval. The City Council will be in charge of its rehabilitation and the owners will put the flats up for social rent. In addition, two of them and a local will be transferred to the Consistory. A similar initiative is taking place in Barceloneta, on Comte de Santa Clara street, which will also benefit from this type of collaboration. These eleven floors will be rehabilitated and destined for social rental for 15 years.