Barcelona vetoes 'capsule housing' plan for low income workers

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
Barcelona vetoes 'capsule housing' plan for low income workers
An image of the inside of a capsule. Photo:

It promised to offer a solution to Barcelona’s housing crisis: A space filled with pods measuring 120cm x 120cm x 200cm where low income workers could live side-by-side like bees in a hive for as little as €200 a month.


But Barcelona City Hall has refused to issue a license insisting that such small digs are not suitable for human habitation.

A group of Barcelona based entrepreneurs came up with the idea to convert empty business premises of 100 square meters into a communal living area containing 15 capsule homes – each equipped with a bed, TV, storage space and power plugs – following a module made popular in Japan.

Indeed the name of the project - Haibu – means beehive in Japanese.

Although capsule accommodation already exists as a concept in Spain - several budget hostels in Barcelona offer pods as an upscale alternative to bunk bed dorms, Haibu 4.0 is not pitched towards tourists.

The concept is aimed at low-income workers who struggle to afford the rocketing rents in the Catalan capital and don’t want to be faced with a long daily commute, explains the blurb on the website promoting the property.

Pods with their own locked door are offered for between €200 and €275 a month, including utility bills and wifi and are set within a communal area that includes a lounge, kitchen and bathrooms.

The housing is restricted to those aged between 25 and 45 years-old and with a minimum monthly salary of €450 and no criminal record.

Although the project, in a building located in Barcelona’s La Bordeta neighbourhood, hasn’t been completed yet, there have already been more than 600 applications for a place.

"We want to give an opportunity to people with limited economic means to survive the crisis,” explain Haibu co-founders Marc Olivé and Eddie Wattenwill to property website “It’s a better alternative to living in a crowded room in a hostel or on the streets.”

But before even applying for an occupation licence, the intiative has been vetoed by Barcelona housing authorities.

"The regulations state that any housing unit must have a surface area of at least 40 square meters, which means that this company will never obtain the necessary operating licenses,” warned Housing Councilor Josep Maria Montaner at Barcelona City Hall.

 "Fortunately piling up people is prohibited. The law does not allow this type of dwelling," Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, a former housing and anti-eviction activist, told reporters on Thursday.

The project was blasted on social media, with Inigo Errejon, a prominent lawmaker with Spain's anti-austerity Podemos party tweeting: "There are similar house in cemeteries, they are called coffins."

The project comes amid a fierce debate in Spain over soaring rents, especially in big cities like Barcelona, with the average rent for a flat soaring 28.7 percent between 2014 and 2017 to €903.4, according to city hall figures.

The average monthly salary in Spain is €1,880 -- and less than €1,300 for those under the age of 30 -- which makes it difficult to rent a home.

READ MORE: The survivor's guide to renting in Madrid 



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