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1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >

Renewal of "the Governor's Housing", Barcelona (Spain)

Para consultar la versión en castellano de este documento, pulse aquí.

Reference Date: 26-07-1998

Experience selected in the 1998 Dubai Award for Best Practice, and catalogued as GOOD. ( Best Practices Database.)
País/Country: Spain

United Nations Region: Europe
Ecological region: Coastal
Activity: Neighbourhood
Partnerships: Local Government. Regional Government. Central Government. Community-based organisation (CBO)

Themes = Architecture and Urban Design: affordable/ecological design; sustainable community design. Housing: access to housing finance; affordable housing; land tenure and security. Land Use Management: development incentives; urban/suburban renewal.

Main contact:
Pere Serra Amengual
Oficina de Remodelación de Barrios
Almansa, 43 bajos.
08031 Barcelona
Tel: +34-93 27 63 372 /93 276 34 92
Fax: +34-93 359 11 12

Antoni Paradell
INCASOL (Institut Catalá del Sól)
Córsega, 289
08008 Barcelona
Tel: +34-93 228 60 00
Fax: +34-93 228 60 01
Administrative, financial, political and technical support

M. del Carmen Gil González
Ministry for Development (Ministry responsible for the public works). (Central government)
P. de la Castellana,67
Ministerio de Fomento
28071 Madrid
Tel: +34-91 597 66 58
Fax: +34-91 597 67 04
Financial support

Antoni Santiburcio
Ajuntament de Barcelona (City Council)
Pi i Molist, 133
08031 Barcelona
Tel: +34-93 291 68 00
Fax: +34-93 291 68 86
Technical and financial support in the urbanization of public spaces processes

Organización Nominadora
Marta García Nart
Comité Nacional Español
Paseo de la Castellana, 67
28071 Madrid
Tlf: +34-91 597 75 72
Fax: +34-91 597 86 04

Key Dates

Inicio: 1992
Final: 2002


"The Governor's housing" is a complex of 900 flats of 20 square metres. They were built in 1952 to house people living in the slums of Barcelona and were privatised during the 60's to avoid maintenance costs and social conflicts.
Some years later, the growth of Barcelona reached this marginal neighbourhood, which ended as an "island" of decay in the centre of the new urban outskirts. Its inhabitants grew old, and only the poorest youngsters remained there. So, drugs and delinquency settled in. The situation worsened and it was only in 1990, after several claims, when the three public administrations (State, Regional, City) reached an agreement. By this agreement, the Catalan Government accepted the total renewal of the houses with the financial help from the Ministry responsible for public works and the City Council's commitment to rebuild the area.

A new plan was designed together with the Neighbours' Association, with the undertaking to keep everybody in the same quarter and the objective to standardise it socially and as an urban area. So, the new streets intermingle with the nearby ones, the new squares are open instead of closed, and some old flats that were empty were renewed to house some of the neighbours temporarily.
To execute the plan, which started in 1992, a private team specialised in managing was contracted. This team, placed on the spot, directs all the operations of expropriating, pulling down, transferring families, integrating, etc. It also answers queries about social or personal difficulties and problems to integrate, which is as important for neighbours as their housing.
Once 50% of the program is executed (it is planned to end in 2002) the results can already be seen: 239 families have a new flat, new commercial activity is starting, and illegal activities have disappeared. An episode of degradation that should have never occurred starts slowly to vanish from the people's memory.


1. Situation before the initiative began
The public Administrations in charge of public works acted on "The Governor's housing" as a result of strong claims by neighbours, based on the fact that the area had become a ghetto in which people lived in inhuman condition of social degradation. "The Governor's housing" was improved because different politicians had the political will to solve the problem and worked on it. The existence of such a degraded zone so close to an Olympic newly built area (Valle Hebrón) and next to a new freeway (Ronda de Dalt) was something to be avoided. This is what made three public Administrations with very different political views reach an agreement to improve the neighbourhood. The complex of 900 flats built as provisional housing in 1952 had followed a process parallel to the evolution of official housing policies. The first years of Franco's dictatorship provided quick and massive housing for thousands of immigrants who arrived in the city and had no other choice but to live in shacks in the slums. Several areas like "the Governor's housing" were built. During the years of technocracy there were early social protests, which were solved by making people living in the slums owners of their own houses. During the first years of democracy there were stronger social protests and the passing of time produced two effects: the population became older and more economically and socially degraded. The wealthiest neighbours left the area and only the poorest stayed. The city boomed and surrounded the area ignoring it at the same time. Shops closed and 20 sq. metre flats remained as an insulting testimony to a degrading way of life. Drugs and delinquency appeared and settled in.

Information and priorities

Once an urban development plan had been drawn and the neighbours affected had agreed to it, a strategy was developed, based on permanent presence of the Administration on the spot to guarantee the fluency of the operation and its co-ordination.
The process of participation of the associated entities originated after the covenant of 1990 and the pressure made by the Neighbours' Association. The roles to play by every part were made clear: the Ministry would give funds. The Catalan Government would manage the enterprise and also help economically. Barcelona City Hall would make the necessary investments to build on the quarter resulting from the operation. A Follow Up Technical Committee was established to guarantee proper co-ordination, and it still meets twice a year.
The Catalan Government, responsible for the management, established a permanent relationship with its social interlocutors. The organisation in charge of executing the plan was the Institut Catal. del Sól (INCASOL) that contracted with a specialised firm to work in the area on the basis of delegate management. This firm manages the project and maintains the links with the Neighbours' Association and with several departments of the different Administrations on behalf of the INCASOL. Everything is done from an office on the spot.
Once the different organisations were identified (INCASOL, Ministry in charge of public works, Barcelona City Hall, Follow Up Technical Committee, and the Management Office) and the plan to develop was accepted, the priorities were established quite easily. All residents at the moment of starting the operation were entitled to a new flat (in order to avoid speculation). There was no expelling, not even from the provisional housing. The program was designed to be realised at major speed. There was general financial help to access the new flats and alternative arrangements for poor or older people who could not afford them.

2. Objectives, strategies and resource managing
The basic objectives are two: a) to provide dignified housing for 700 families who lived in degraded 20 sq. metre flats, and b) to recover an area that had remained absolutely isolated from its surroundings.
The complementary objectives are:

The actions started are of different kind:

The total cost of the project is 8.000 million pesetas of which 60% will be returned by the affected people, the sales of warehouses and parking places. The finance of the operation is shared at a rate of 50 % between the Ministry in charge of public works and the Catalan Government.
The City Hall contributes the urbanisation, which is worth 500 million pesetas. The total amount of money supplied by every administration is decided every year in accordance with covenants.

3. Process

Previous phase (92-93)

A census was made and the social, economical and urban development bases were established. The main problem was to reach a balance between what the Administration offered and the neighbours' demands. It was also very important to avoid speculation.

Execution (from 94)

Once the action program was agreed and its different phases were defined, the main problem was to find the solution to temporarily allocate the first families whose houses had to be pulled down. It was agreed to fix all the empty houses (around 100) to transfer the families there provisionally till the new houses were finished.
In the normal process, the most important problems come from the difficulty to co-ordinate several necessary administrative interventions of various departments and divisions of the different Administrations. Another problem is the pressure of the families included in the last phases of the program because its speed is limited by the capability to lodge families temporarily.

4. Achieved results
In December 1997 the forecast investment has been made and the impact of what has been done is remarkable:

The project has improved the living environment and is ecologically sustainable in its urban context. The good practice code at "The Governor's housing" includes:

The initial impacting investment is assumed by the Administrations and included in their budgets all along the process. The return rate has been graded so that the buyers -all of them of low income rate- do not invest more than 30% of their income in repayment for their flat. The amount corresponding to this return rate becomes mortgage loans assumed by the private finance sector, which allows the Administration to recover the amount as soon as the operation finishes.


It is possible to transfer the experience to other areas with similar problems, in which rebuilding is unavoidable in order to recover a degraded area. It has been said that this model has been transferred to two more areas and that it is planned to start remodelling a third area in 1998.
The most relevant lessons of this good practise code may be summarised in two main principles: commitment with the idea and proximity to the administered. Commitment with the idea means that the team of people in charge of the program execution -on top of being experts- must believe in the work they do and its social interest. Proximity to the administered requires being on the spot permanently and therefore, accepting that more requests and help will be claimed than it was actually expected.
This type of integral operations make it necessary to attend not only urban, economic and financial problems, but also social and personal problems. In this sense, a multidisciplinary working team is essential. Nearness requires to limit the number of professionals -no more than 10 or 15 are recommended- so that all of them may participate in each one of the problems that arise while managing the program.

The experience in numbers

Financial profile

Year Regional Government Central Government Local Government
1998 250 250 50
1997 250 250 10
1996 250 250 50
1995 250 250 30
1994 200 200 10
Total 1200 1200 150
(Million pesetas)


Lleonart, Pere and others (1996) "Viviendas del Gobernador" (in Proyectos inmobiliarios excelentes, n. 15. N. pages: 6)

Serra, Pere (1997) "Las Viviendas del Gobernador" (in Project Urban. Ministere de l'Equipament, des Transports et du Logement. N. 11. September 1997. N. pages: 1)

Serra, Pere (1996) "Renewing a district. Erasing memory" (Papers of the XIX Congress International Union of Architects-Colegi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya. Communication FORUM P167. Barcelona, July 1996. N. pages: 16) .

Since 1992 the local newspapers often publish news and events that are summarized in the annual Management Office Memory.

Este documento se ha editado a partir de una versión inglesa.
Revisado por Ricardo García.

1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
Búsqueda | Buenas Prácticas | Documentos | Boletín CF+S | Novedades | Convocatorias | Sobre la Biblioteca | Buzón/Mailbox
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio