2008. Todo por la praxis. EMPTY WORLD (2007.10 / theoretical data)

EMPTY WORLD. Empty housing real state agency.

Empty World is a project developed by Todo por la Praxis, linked to the Madrid Abierto programme. The project will be appear in MA’s programme and the funding will depend also on MA.

Empty housing, gentrification and speculation

The rise of the housing prices keeps increasing each year. This year it seems to have had a smooth deceleration, about the 15% cheaper than last year, other years it grew about a 20 or 25%. However, the difficulties to own or rent an apartment are greater everyday and the efforts that a normal salary must undertake are increasing significantly, reaching almost unbearable levels on the long term. To purchase a house is the main investment that most Spaniards have to deal with in their lifetime. The excessive increase in the prices has augmented the effort until most of a person’s lifetime earnings are invested in it. An interesting piece of information can sum up the housing problem in Spain: the average price of a home has multiplied by five in salary terms in the period 1986-2006, while salaries in that same period have only duplicated. Home prices have grown thirteen and a half times more than salaries.

Regarding the problem a phenomenon takes place that reflects the recklessness of the real estate market in Spain. The struggle to find a home is in contrast with the gigantism of a market that is growing without control, with an already existent patrimony that is abandoned or is a part of speculation strategy. By discussing a single point we can graphically understand this phenomenon. In Madrid, the number of empty houses equals the number of new apartments being built in the three most important Urban Development Plans in the city (Sanchinarro, Las Tablas and Carabanchel). This questions the market imposed urban model, for, the abandonment of the already existing patrimony is a matter of speculation processes that are unsustainable. On an environmental level it involves an unjustified consumption of the territory and on an economic level it’s a waste of public investment to cover the services and needs of the residents in new houses.

It is within these central areas where the phenomenon seems to be more intense, linked to gentrification processes. The word “gentrification” evolves from the English word “gentry” and literally relates to the adoption of a bourgeois lifestyle. This concept defines the process by which a working class neighbourhood, that has been previously abandoned and degraded, increases its value due to the expulsion of its traditional dwellers and their substitution by middle upper-class residents. The process involves changes in the type of houses and commercial and production activities. This is done for the profits obtained from speculation, due to the increase on the area’s value. Malasaña is a clear example of these practices, thus the analyses of these processes in the neighbourhood will be the goal of the project.

Empty World

The proposed project is made up of several elements. Firstly, a real estate agency’s Online office: EW in Clearance Sale. In the shop window/showcase we will recreate the aesthetic and image of real estate agencies with a photographic catalogue of empty apartments in the neighbourhood. Therefore, as one of the agency’s tasks a record of empty apartments will be created. In order to do so, the neighbourhood’s cadastral data will be obtained and updated, inviting neighbours to participate in the elaboration of this record on a larger scale. They will be invited to carry out a signalling campaign with stickers on empty houses of the neighbourhood. Finally, there will be debate sessions on gentrification and real estate speculation. For the sessions we will invite:

- Santiago Cirugeda (Architect)
- V de Vivienda
- Neighbour Association of Malasaña
- Mesa de la Vivienda de Lavapies.
- Praxis cooperative.
- Fernando Roch (Urbanism Profesor in ETSAM)

(October 2007)