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<nettime> A new project is underway in Barcelona

A new project is underway in Barcelona – BComú Global –
Medium BComú Global

Translation of an article by Josep Maria Montaner, Councilor for
Housing, Barcelona City Hall published in El Periodico on 6 May 2017

The city is rolling out a redistributive urban model based on adaptation
and renovation, which prioritizes the right to decent housing

Two years since the municipal elections, it can be argued that Barcelona
is putting together a new urban project. In contrast to previous eras,
this new project isn’t hierarchical, nor does it start with preconceived
ideas, or consist in megaprojects. It isn’t conceived or represented by
any individual. Rather, it’s a project that’s been worked on and shared
by a political, social and professional movement; drawn up collectively,
dynamically, as a network, based on debates in every neighbourhood and
led, for the first time, by a woman.

It’s a redistributive urban model, based on adapting and renovating.
It’s a model that, for the first time, doesn’t seek the monumental or
the exceptional, but prioritizes the right to decent housing as the
pillar of all policy. It’s a model that recovers and consolidates the
public sphere, starting with the remunicipalization of the city’s water,
the creation of the Metropolitan Energy Agency, and the principle that
public land will remain public. It understands housing as a public
service, and the city as made up of spaces for living in. That’s why
investment in refurbishment, which had fallen to historic lows under the
previous government, is at a record high of 46 million Euros in 2017.
This budget will go to proactive refurbishments that focus on
habitability in the neighbourhoods that need it most.


This redistributive ‘post-model’ is expressed differently in each place,
strengthening the vibrancy of urban life, just as Jane Jacobs advocated.
That’s why we’ve drawn up a Plan for Neighbourhoods. We’ve moved from
prioritizing the central avenues of Diagonal, Passeig de Gràcia and the
luxury port to the neglected neighbourhoods of North Besós, the Raval
and the Marina del Prat Vermell, where we’re remodeling public space
between modern housing blocks and reaching every individual and family,
either through rent subsidies or information offices on legal rights,
all with a significant focus on coordination to improve public health
and education.

This new city project has used the Special Urban Plan for Tourist
Accommodation to control mass tourism and protect residential housing
and the ability of people to stay in their neighbourhoods. The Plan is
complemented by the measures in the Plan for the Right to Housing in
Barcelona (2016–2025), which will triple the affordable public housing
stock over the next ten years. We’ve used all available instruments, as
well as creating new ones, including: the Unit against Residential
Exclusion, which aims to tackle the housing crisis and promote the
social function of housing; the Metropolitan Housing Observatory to
provide basic information on housing stock, and the promotion of new
forms of ownership such as cooperatives and co-housing.


In order for this urban system to work as well as possible, we’re
ramping up the process to move us towards a green and harmonious city,
with sustainable mobility. We’re increasing the number of bike lanes,
reorganizing the bus network, and creating more green routes. For the
first time, Barcelona has included gender equality in urban planning, an
essential tool to improve the quality of daily life.

Barcelona is learning from other contemporary urban models, including
positive ecology in Curitiba (Brazil) or the pioneering sustainability
work of Seattle (USA), as well exchanging experiences with cities like
New York, Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Nevertheless, the plan is ultimately
the fruit of the DNA of the city and its citizens; creative, critical
and innovative, capable of harnessing the best qualities of urbanism.


What is happening in Barcelona is everyday urbanism that prioritizes
rights over bricks and mortar; a project that is beginning to build an
alternative model to neoliberalism, the name we’ve given to the new face
of the capitalist patriarchy. A politics of everyday life that puts
people and communities in the centre. A new urban model that is
constantly tested through tactical urbanism and that recovers the
projects of proximity led by pioneering women who, at the end of the
19th century, defended models of community life and the value of
neighbourhoods and taught Patrick Geddes to redo and improve rather than

It’s an alternative project that is up for continual debate, review and
transformation, and which will come from institutions and municipalist
movements or not at all. Urban planning in Barcelona is undergoing a
process of change that’s the product of hundreds of minds and that is
experienced at a small scale, uniquely, in each neighbourhood.

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