The first entry in this blog dealt with one of the first regulations of the then new Francoist State: the law on subsidised housing and the subsequent creation of the National Housing Institute (INV) in 1939. This law had been in force for barely fifteen years and now, in view of the new airs that were appearing among the leaders of the regime, a legislative change was proposed to open up the construction activity to private initiative, although leaving, at least on paper, the initiative to the INV through the public construction company Obra Sindical del Hogar (OSH).

Before the enactment of the Law of 15 July 1954 on the protection of low-income housing, two decrees were issued, one for the organisation of a social housing plan and the other for the construction of low-income and minimum-income housing by the OSH. This set of measures did not affect the housing developments carried out by the railway companies, and RENFE in particular, as this legislation was more oriented to attend to “a group of population that arrives en masse to the big cities and crowds into the suburbs”, with hardly sufficient economic resources or any job stability, hence the housing envisaged in these plans was low priced (around 25. 25,000 pta) and very small in size (around 45 m2), in the case of the minimum dwellings, while the low-income dwellings could reach 100 m2 and were priced at over 100,000 pta.

The 1954 law on low-income housing did bring about a major change in the model of housing built by the railway companies, which were still obliged to carry out this task as a way of contributing to providing sufficient housing for the workers, as was proclaimed in the propaganda of the regime. It should be clarified that this law started out depending, as had happened with the 1939 law, on the Ministry of Labour, but that from 1957 it would be transferred to the newly created Ministry of Housing, which would be in charge of managing the real estate issue in the midst of the development explosion.

This law was born with a unifying spirit with respect to previous regulations, that is, it sought to organise and simplify part of the confusing legislation and new regulations that had been enacted since 1939. To this end, it centralised the construction of social housing in the INV, for which it ordered the drawing up of a general plan for the protection of low-income housing, the simplification of the procedures for economic benefits, the increase in tax advantages for the builders of these dwellings and the extension of the deadlines for the repayment of advances from the State. The improvement in the country’s economic situation was conducive to this turnaround, which also entailed, although the law did not explicitly state this, encouraging private housing developments to increase the supply of social housing. This meant, as some authors have pointed out, the increasing entry of private initiative in the construction of social housing, with these private developers soon replacing public developments by companies and other official bodies.

Even so, an important aid policy was maintained for public and private developers and tenants of the dwellings built under this law, which would now be known generally as low-income housing. The benefits and aid would be granted through the INV and included: tax exemptions and bonuses, which favoured both builders and tenants; the preferential supply to housing developers of standardised materials and elements that could still have some kind of intervention or regulation in the supply; the maintenance of the right to compulsory expropriation of the land that had to be occupied if there was a prior declaration of public utility of a project; and the maintenance of an extensive system of advances and low-interest, long-term loans.

The houses that were built under this law had to have a metal plate with the INV emblem and the legend: “Ministry of Labour, National Housing Institute, This house is covered by the Benefits of the Law of 15 July 1954” on a visible part of the façade. When the Ministry of Housing was created in 1957, the heading of the plaque was changed to the name of the new ministerial department.

Illustration 1. Housing portal of the “Nuestra Señora de los Llanos” cooperative in Albacete, with the Ministry of Housing’s identification plaque at the top.

Although it is not the object of this entry, it should be pointed out that the success of this law was relative, since in many cases it carried out the constructions that had been left pending from the previous planning. In the case of railway housing, we can confirm this, since RENFE extended up to 7,000 dwellings the initial plan of 4,000 dwellings in 1945, which had not yet been achieved at that time. Lack of materials, poor economic development and also other speculative factors were behind these delays.

According to the data we have compiled, RENFE built a total of 2,950 dwellings under the 1939 law (whose denomination was “subsidised housing”) and will approach 4,000 dwellings with the 1954 law (“limited income housing”). In addition, the cooperatives that had begun to proliferate in the 1960s would build more than 5,500 dwellings and other companies in the railway sector would add another 1,000 dwellings, which diversified the housing development groups considerably under the 1954 law. This was not the case under the previous law when cooperatives (less than 400 dwellings) and other railway companies (just over 800 dwellings) contributed to a much lesser extent. A final note on this legislative moment came with the aforementioned creation of the Ministry of Housing in 1957, where various shock measures were taken to urgently build housing in urban areas, in recognition of the failure of previous plans. At the head of the ministry was an illustrious representative of the Falangist sector of the regime, José Luis Arrese, who increased the paternalistic line of Francoism while at the same time handing a greater role to private developers in the construction of housing, who were in charge of configuring and designing the so-called satellite cities that emerged in the big cities.

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