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The Department of Housing opens a participatory process to discuss the future of housing after the COVID-19 crisis

  • A total of 96 actors and organisations will take part in the project which is already underway
  • Their conclusions will be incorporated into the next Housing Master Plan and the Recovery Plan for the sector

The Department of Housing has launched a participatory and open discussion process with actors and organisations working in this field to discuss the challenges and needs that the COVID-19 crisis has brought to light in terms of housing and to seek solutions and ideas for the future. The impact of the pandemic, with its health, economic and social implications, has made it clear that “having decent and adequate housing has become an even more pressing need when people have to go into lockdown”, as regional minister Iñaki Arriola pointed out.

That is why, as we enter a new phase in the fight against the pandemic, the Department of Housing has decided to engage in a wide-ranging debate to identify, in a collaborative manner, the lessons learned and future paths to be taken from the experience, in order to define specific housing policies. The aim is to reach a consensus with institutional, economic and social actors on solutions with a short, medium and long term impact, which will be reflected in a Social and Economic Recovery Plan in the field of housing and in a roadmap that the next Basque Government will incorporate as a strategy into its new Housing Master Plan 2021-2023.

The quest for these forward-looking proposals with a high level of social backing is focused on two main objectives: effective access to housing and the recovery of the construction sector in economic terms and as regards job creation, with special emphasis on promoting social housing for rent and wholesale renovation.

Phase one

The process was recently initiated and is in its first phase. To this end, an open questionnaire has been launched to collect proposals for projects and measures to tackle the challenges in the field of housing of a pandemic such as the one we are currently experiencing. The discussion is open to a total of 96 stakeholders, with the following profiles: social and citizens’ organisations, actors involved in the construction and renovation of housing, professional associations, urban renovation companies, financial entities, voluntary social welfare entities in the Basque Country, Basque technology corporations, the Construction Cluster, REITs that are active in the Autonomous Community, Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), other Basque Government departments and public companies, and other administrations and town councils.

All contributions received will serve as a starting point for the next phase, in which different workshops will be held in response to the objectives outlined above. Once the most relevant projects have been identified, they will be profiled in a number of ideation and implementation workshops. Those agents who, due to their profile, are most suited to the initiative will take part in them, thereby making progress in the implementation of shared, high-impact projects.

Therefore, the aim is to define and develop a Social and Economic Recovery Plan in the field of housing that is widely agreed upon and involving all the players concerned. In coordination with other schemes, this plan will help position us in the new reality that will emerge from the pandemic with competitive, social and economic advantages.

This type of participatory work is already a hallmark of the Housing Department, which has been doing so for more than a decade. The Social Housing Pact (2010), the last three Master Plans and the 2015 Housing Act itself were implemented using this open collaboration methodology.

Commitment to participation

In fact, the process for the Social Housing Pact, which involved more than 16,000 people, won the 2012 United Nations Public Service Award (UNPSA), the world’s most prestigious international recognition for excellence in public service.

Our commitment to open participation is not a stunt”, said regional minister Iñaki Arriola. “Over the last few years we have seen that applying this formula leads us to define better and more innovative policies, and to achieve the active collaboration of actors and organisations in the housing sector, which ensures that we meet our objectives”.

This same participatory process was employed on a smaller scale with regard to the Order for assistance in paying the rent for individuals and families who have suffered the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, which has been in force since last Wednesday. And it was also applied when drafting the future Decree on Habitability and Housing Design Standards. The Decree project had already incorporated significant innovations in the design of spaces for new housing that have been shown to be necessary due to the lockdown resulting from the pandemic. At the moment we are finalising the incorporation of contributions made during the submission process, which will go further into adapting living spaces to the new uses and needs that the crisis has brought to light.