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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: Haibu4.com

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 Idealista.com. “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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MOVING TO SPAIN

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

One of the most common questions people moving to Spain ask is where they can rent temporary accommodation while looking for somewhere more permanent. This can be particularly tricky, but we've found some of the best places to look.

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

So you’ve sorted out your visas, you’ve done all your packing and have either sold or moved out of your home, but when you arrive in Spain you’re not exactly sure where you’re going to stay.  

Of course, it’s not the best idea to sign a contract ahead of time for a more permanent place before you’ve actually seen it in person. Photos don’t always accurately represent what the house or apartment looks like in reality and you won’t really be able to get a feel for the neighbourhood without being there. 

On top of this, rental scams are rife in some places in Spain, particularly in the bigger more popular cities like Barcelona. Often people will place an ad (which usually looks too good to be true) and get you to wire over a deposit to secure it in advance, but here’s the catch – the place doesn’t usually exist.

This is why it’s important to never hand over money to secure a place to live in Spain before you’ve actually seen it in person and you can get the keys as soon as you sign the contract.

But, finding a place to live in a new country can be difficult and it can take time, so while you look for somewhere, you’re going to need temporary accommodation for a couple of months. This can be tricky too because often temporary accommodation is geared towards tourists and you’ll be paying tourist prices too.

While Idealista and Fotocasa are two of the most popular sites to look for accommodation in Spain, when you only want somewhere for a couple of months, there’s no point looking there, as most places will have yearly contracts.

Keep in mind with short-term rentals for a couple of months, you’re going to be paying higher than the average monthly rent, however, for this, the apartments are usually fully furnished, including kitchen utensils, wi-fi already connected and offer you the flexibility of shorter contracts.

Short-term rental agencies

Specialised short-term rental agencies are the best way to go, which will allow you to sign contacts for less than the typical one year. These types of agencies are usually found in Spain’s big cities that are popular with foreigners, such as Madrid and Barcelona.

Trying searching in Spanish too by typing alquiler de temporada or alquiler temporal plus the name of the city or town you’re looking in. This way you may be able to find places that offer better value. 

Barcelona

In Barcelona, check out aTemporal an agency that started up precisely to fix the problem of trying to find accommodation in-between tourist accommodation and long-term rentals. They rent out apartments for anywhere from 32 days to 11 months.

ShBarcelona is another agency that specialises in these types of rentals and have properties all over the city.

READ ALSO – Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Madrid

In Madrid, try DFLAT, which was created by two professionals from the Instituto de Empresa University after discovering the difficulties professionals and foreigners found when looking for an apartment in Madrid. Sh also has a good branch in Madrid.  

Valencia

In Valencia, Dasha Living Space has both short and long-term fully furnished flats available and  Valenvi Flats also offers rentals for between three and six months.

READ ALSO – Moving to Valencia: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Airbnb

While the nightly rate of Airbnb apartments is typically too expensive to rent for a couple of months, you may be able to find some deals. Often when you input dates for a month into Airbnb, you’ll find that several places have a monthly discount offered. Also, some owners will do a deal for a couple of months. If it’s winter for example and they know they’re not going to get many tourists anyway, they may be willing to negotiate.

Vrbo

Like Airbnb, the properties on Vrbo are rented out directly by the owners. While the site is also mainly focused on tourists, some owners may negotiate outside of the tourist season.

Housesitting

If you’re willing to try something a little bit different, then housesitting could be the way to go. This is where you live in somebody’s house for free, in exchange for looking after their pets and their property.

Often people only need someone for a few days, but sometimes you’ll see house sits available for a month or longer. This is perhaps a better option for those who are flexible on where they might want to live and are trying out a few different places. It’s also better for those wanting to live in smaller towns or villages rather than the bigger cities, as there are fewer postings for these popular locations. Trusted Housesitters and Mind My House are good options. 

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