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Master Plan for Strategic Residential Areas in the Area of “Lower Llobregat”
Miquel Roa, 22 de Diciembre del 2008

Besides ensuring access to affordable housing, government subsidies ought to serve as the engine of the Strategic Residential Areas (ARE). Conceived during the housing bubble of 2006, the latter came to light during the real turn of the century and they will evolve within whatever comes out of that seismic shift. With overwhelming public support and decisive political momentum, they sought to carve out a space for people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to gain access to an overheated housing market. More land for subsidized housing was their motto, and a scattershot array of some one hundred strategic residential areas hit the long suffering map of Catalonia.
With frantic speed and unprecedented interagency collaboration, some one hundred and fifty teams of professionals conceived, developed and revised the plans. Four months later—with August intervening—came the contract and the initial approvals. During the project’s initial phase, the Generalitat of Catalonia, local governments and professionals worked closely together focusing on quality, environmental sensitivity, consensus building and productivity. Most people expected their work to be validated in an approval process due to be completed by March 15, 2009.
With the housing market frozen, the situation is vastly different today. Subsidized housing is being asked to carry the burden not only of providing access but also of promoting the ARE’s. The urbanization of new neighborhoods must now be underwritten by the value of the subsidized land. All these things ought to be possible, but some must be pursued more aggressively than others: namely those most in demand, with the most reasonable expectation of impact through urbanization and the clearest institutional support.
We’ve skipped over the debate over the underlying ARE strategy, over its scale and reach, over the model’s uniqueness in the context of the rest of Europe, the quality of individual projects it’s engendered, the levels of environmental and fiscal sustainability. We owe it to ourselves to engage in those debates, but under the circumstances, in the face of a beleaguered and confused nation, we feel it’s incumbent on us to recommend the larger antidote of resolve. Let’s get on with the program’s implementation and, at the same time, reflect on how to make it better..



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