Raúl Robert

Ashoka Fellow
Barcelona, Spain
Fellow Since 2010

Citation

This profile was prepared when Raúl Robert was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Raúl is introducing a new, non-speculative, housing cooperative model in Spain that combines characteristics from both ownership and renting regimes, allowing cheaper access to housing without reducing a sense of home ownership and responsibility. Raúl’s model differs from others, such as traditional building cooperatives, in that it stops speculation over prices in the long-term, preventing unreasonable price increases that put houses out of reach for most people. Although traditional construction cooperatives coincide with Raúl’s model, by making building costs affordable for cooperative members, they do not create a permanent pool of affordable housing, since, after construction the property goes on to become part of the speculative housing market.

The main characteristic of a relinquished usage cooperative, the model Raúl proposes, is that the cooperative itself perpetually holds the actual rights of property. Each cooperative member pays an entrance fee for his home (i.e. 9 times less than they would normally pay when buying a property) and then pays a monthly fee throughout the time the individual lives in the property. The fee tends to be less than a monthly rental fee at market price (i.e. 90 percent of a regular rent and 70 percent of a mortgage fee). Once the construction fees have been covered (by members of the cooperative), this monthly payment becomes a fund to cover improvements and loans to spread and disseminate the idea. The members of the cooperative have the right to use the property and are involved from the beginning in the design and management of the building. However, when an individual wishes to move, he returns the usage rights to the cooperative (i.e. recovering their entrance fee plus the improvement investments made as well as the increased appreciation). The cooperative, according to its statutes, will resell those rights to a new cooperative member.

Raúl’s model prevents many of the speculative practices that rule traditional markets and place home ownership out of reach for most people, and instead builds a permanent and larger pool of fairly priced housing. Raúl’s aim is to bring more flexibility to the housing market by offering an alternative model that adapts better to the population’s needs, such as lower entry costs, long-term rights, and work-related mobility.

Raúl also intends to influence the housing policy at-large, including access to land. By launching pilot projects with this new affordable housing model, making already available legislative and financial tools applicable to the model, he is changing key aspects of legislation and spreading awareness of the model’s benefits. Spain in particular is at a historic moment for a change in mentality concerning home ownership, which has been made explicit through the construction crisis. In a country where the age of first-time homeowners averages 30 years and work-related mobility is one of the lowest in Europe, there is a vast pool of young adults in need of affordable housing.

Additionally, due to the explosion of the construction bubble that had been growing since the mid 1970s, there is a large pool of half constructed buildings that cannot be sold in the regular market but could easily be converted into housing under Raúl’s model. Local governments and companies have shown immense interest in Raúl’s work as a solution to a housing crisis that Spain has been suffering from for years.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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