Compared with other major European cities, Barcelona suffers from a severe lack of public rental housing. While Vienna, London, Paris or Berlin have more than 20% of public rental housing within their total residential stock, the Catalan capital is barely 1%. This lack is a direct inheritance of Francoism, a regime that, with the conviction that a population of indebted owners would be more conservative and less prone to revolt and therefore, promoted public purchase of homes. The fact that residents are pushed towards relidential purchase makes the situation in Barcelona, that one in eight houses (more than 100,000 units) have been built with public money, but then go on to end up in private hands.
After the Transition, instead of reducing this public incentive the culture of private property was extended. For decades, the Spanish Tax Department stopped collecting a large amount of resources due to tax breaks that encouraged individuals to turn to banks for mortgage and acquire a privately owned home. This policy, unheard of in other countries with a similar environment, swelled housing prices to exorbitant levels and caused an unprecedented housing bubble. In 2008, in the context of a global financial crisis, the bursting of the bubble, aggravated by a mortgage law that denied any possibility of "giving back the house in payment", would lead to a housing emergency that would leave large numbers of homeless families and a large number of unoccupied homes. Eight years later, while the mortgage crisis is far from being solved, Barcelona is experiencing a second real estate bubble, in this case, rent prices. The demand for accommodation by the growing tourist population and the massive purchase of housing by foreign investors have led to rents having risen by more than 13% in Barcelona in 2015 and already reaching pre-burst levels of 2008.
If Barcelona had a public stock of rental housing comparable to other major European cities, its population would be much more protected from these fluctuations in the real estate market. The Vienna case, with 30% of public housing and 30% of non-speculative cooperative housing, is an emblematic example: the remaining third of homes belong to a private market that is much more stable and responsible than ours. Despite the fact that, in the current legislature, the Municipal Housing Board has increased the production of public housing, the truth is that with the current rate of production would still take decades to have the park necessary to temper market fluctuations. In addition, new housing is produced on the basis of large peripheral developments that are only available to large construction companies, which do not enrich the urban fabric and can generate social ghettos.