Barcelona vetoes ‘capsule housing’ plan for low income workers

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.

Barcelona vetoes 'capsule housing' plan for low income workers
An image of the inside of a capsule. Photo:

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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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

If you get locked out, have a break-in or need to change or fix the door lock at your home in Spain, here are the rates and advice you need before calling a Spanish locksmith (cerrajero).

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

Like anywhere, locksmiths are generally expensive and the price can vary greatly depending on the service you need and where you are.

It also depends on when you need them, as it’ll cost much more to call them out on a Saturday night than a Monday morning, for example.

Nor would it cost the same to open your front door as it would a reinforced security door.

But locksmiths don’t just make copies of keys and bail you out when you’re stuck outside your flat.

They also offer a whole host of different services including, but not limited to, opening safes, creating master keys, installing security doors, anti-drill doors, cutting specialist locks that reject copied keys, and even unlocking the boot of your car.

How much does a locksmith cost in Spain?

Given all these variables, the price can range massively.

According to Cronoshare, the average price for a nationwide call out in Spain can start from €80 anywhere up to €400.

On average, for a basic service, you can expect to pay anywhere between €40-€70 an hour for the labour, with the price of changing or installing a basic lock anywhere between €80-€200. 

For basic door openings, it depends on the situation you find yourself in: for doors locked with a key, which is a more complex task, prices average around €200, and for doors that are jammed or slammed shut, slightly cheaper in the €80-€100 range.

For an armoured or security door, prices can start at around €300.

In short, a general rule is that the more complex the task is, the higher the prices.

And as always, prices can vary depending on where you are in Spain, the quality of the locksmith, the time of the day and week you need his or her services, and if its a public holiday or not. 

So, as always, compare prices to try and find the most economical solution without skimping on quality.

As such, the following rates are estimations taken from average prices from locksmith.

Weekend/holiday rates

Where prices can really start to add up, however, is when you have an emergency situation requiring a locksmith’s assistance at the weekend, on a public holiday, or outside of normal working hours.

And if you live in Spain, you probably know there’s quite a few of those days throughout the year.

If you really need a cerrajero on a public holiday or during non-working hours (usually defined as anything between 8pm-8am) prices can reach €300 or €500 due to the fact you’ll have to cover the cost of travel, which starts from around €40 plus the increased rate.

Then you must also include the price of labour to the flat rate, which is usually somewhere between €40 and €70 an hour regardless of when you call them out.

Key vocabulary 

We’ve put together some of the basic vocabulary you might need if you find yourself needing a locksmith while in Spain.

el cerrajero – locksmith

la llave – the key

la llave de repuesto – the spare key

la puerta – the door

la cerradura – the lock

la bisagra – the hinge

día festivo – public holiday

cambio de bombín – change of cylinder lock

puerta blindada – armoured door

coste de mano de obra – labour costs

quedarse afuera – get locked out 

puerta cerrada de un portazo – door slammed shut

puerta cerrada con llave – locked door

Tips relating to choosing a good locksmith in Spain 

If you’ve just started renting a new place or have bought a property, it’s advisable to change the lock as you don’t know who has keys to your front door. If you’re a tenant, try to negotiate this with your landlord as it’s in both of your interests that only you two have keys to the property.

If there has been a burglary in your property while you’re living in it and there’s no sign of forced entry, then there’s a very big chance that the burglars had a copy of your keys, and you should definitely change the locks. 

If you’ve lost your keys and you think it happened close to your home, again it’s advisable for you to change the locks.

One of the best ways to avoid being locked out and having to cough up a hefty sum is to give a spare set to someone that you trust that lives in your town or city in Spain. 

When it comes to choosing a locksmith in Spain, you should make sure he or she is a reputable one. Asking friends and family first can be your first port of call.

If not, make sure you read reviews online if available to get any insight beforehand.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises, ask them on the phone for a budget (presupuesto) for all the costs attached to their services before accepting.

Be wary of cerrajeros that automatically want to change the whole lock when a simpler and less costly option is possible. 

Usually they should offer you a contract for you to read carefully before signing. It should include a three-month guarantee for the potential new lock or at least a breakdown of the costs.

Make sure that they are not charging you an excessively high price if it’s an emergency, as this is not actually legal.

There’s also asking them to prove their accreditation with the Unión Cerrajeros de Seguridad (UCES).

Weekend and holiday rates can be higher nonetheless, so consider your options and if it’s worth staying with a friend or family member for a night to save some money. A trustworthy and honest cerrajero will let you know about the money you could save if you choose to wait as well.