Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Domestic Cartographies: A Post-Occupancy Ethnographic Assessment of Barcelona’s Social Housing Strategies, 2015–2023

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Abstract:  The lack of affordable housing remains a major problem in Spain. Following the decline in public and affordable housing production caused by the economic, political, and social crisis of 2008, efforts to produce public housing were reactivated in the mid-2010s, gaining increasing importance. In Barcelona, housing policies have played a central role in recent political discourse, particularly with the tenure of housing rights activist Ada Colau (2015–2023). With traditional approaches failing to address the housing emergency, the local government introduced five new procurement strategies to increase the affordable housing stock. These involve new forms of council housing, delegated developments, limited-profit investments, zero-equity housing cooperatives, and urban refurbishment. This article uses a mixed methods approach to analyse these strategies. The analysis spans all design phases, from inception to construction, and includes post-occupancy evaluations. Methods include typological analysis, expert interviews, and spatial performance analysis using ethnographic methods and inhabitant interviews. The results evidence the importance of diversifying procurement models, tailoring approaches to different user profiles, and enhancing emerging opportunities by including new stakeholders in the development process.

Keywords:  affordable housing; Barcelona Housing Plan; cooperative housing; emergency shelters; housing policies; post-occupancy evaluation; social housing


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© Raül Avilla-Royo, Ibon Bilbao. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.