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‘Beehive’ housing arrives in Barcelona

Updated March 14, 2019


BARCELONA: Capsule flats of a ‘beehive’-style housing project.—AFP
BARCELONA: Capsule flats of a ‘beehive’-style housing project.—AFP

FOR the past few weeks Harry Kajevic has been sleeping in a 2.4-square-metre capsule flat in a clandestine location. He is one of the first residents of a “beehive”-style housing project, inspired by those in Japan or Hong Kong, which has opened in Barcelona despite not having a permit from the city authorities. The initiative by the Spanish start-up company Haibu is made up of around 20 tiny living pods, which include a bed and nightstand. They are housed side by side in a building with a shared kitchen, bathroom and terrace — all for 200 euros a month. Furniture is sparse, limited in the communal area to a few tables, chairs and a wardrobe for each resident. “For me, this is decent housing. I go out into the streets clean and fed, I rest when I sleep,” said Kajevic, a 42-year-old burly Austrian truck driver, who just moved back to Barcelona after a previous period in the city.

At the end of last year, the average rent in Barcelona was 954.29 euros, a 40-pc jump over the end of 2013, according to figures from the regional government of Catalonia. Real-estate websites rarely list rooms for rent in a shared apartment for less than 300 euros a month. But 30pc of all workers in Spain earn less than 1,230 euros a month, making it hard for many to find a place to live even if they work full-time. Last year, more than 37,000 evictions were carried out in Spain due to unpaid rent, nine per cent more than two years ago, according to court figures. Several charities in Barcelona say that the city’s homeless figures have risen since 2015 as rents have soared.

But the capsules violate the law, which states that a person must live in at least five square metres. Not even the largest pods aimed for couples are that size. “They are slums, they are not dignified housing,” said Barcelona’s councillor in charge of urban planning, Janet Sanz. Haibu presents the project as a social initiative. The company says it will offer residents professional counselling and that it will not exceed a five-percent profit. “The goal is for people to come for just a brief period, get on their feet financially and move on,” said Marc Oliver, one of Haibu’s founders.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2019