BRIEF NOTE ON SOCIAL HOUSING LEGISLATION IN SPAIN, 1939-1990 (1) THE AUTARKIC PERIOD

1939: Law on protected housing and creation of the INV. The first regulation of this period was the law of 19 April 1939 (and its implementing regulation of 8 September 1939), which corresponded to a clearly autarkic stage of the regime and to the Falangist and centralising vocation of the time, combined with large doses of pragmatism in its application. This law would remain in force until the promulgation of the 1954 law and the regulations on protected housing would take the form of the first test of a housing plan between 1944 and 1954. It coexisted with the regulations for subsidized, social, low income and minimum income housing.

This law is a consequence of the great deficiencies in housing that existed in the country, especially in the large cities, derived from previous years, when housing was still not valued as an essential good and a dispersed and poorly executed rental system survived, together with the damage caused in the Civil War. Furthermore, we know that the Spanish housing stock was very old and in need of intense renovation. To this was added the post-war Spanish demographic growth and the process of rural-urban migration. Hence the urgency of the law and the clear ideological identification of the regime. In other words, an ideological project was being constructed, in which housing had a special relevance, which was sustained by the trilogy of home, family and state.

In the text the word house is replaced for the first time by housing (humanisation) and the qualification of ‘protected housing’ is given. The change is mainly aesthetic: from cheap house to protected housing. To acquire this status, the homes had to have a reduced sale or rental price, comply with the technical and constructive characteristics indicated and be included in the State Housing Plan. This qualification would last for 20 years, or if the economic benefits were returned to the State. The promoters could be administrations, trade unions and organizations of the Movement (the single party), cooperative and charitable societies, and companies. Among these would be RENFE, which would be qualified as a construction company by the Decree of 26 April 1944. For this reason, no projects had been developed between the enactment of the law and the start of the 4,000 housing plan in 1945. We do not know the reasons for this delay in carrying out these plans in one of the groups most in need of housing.

It is important to remember that this law also created the National Housing Institute, which was the hallmark of all housing policies under the Franco regime, initially integrated into the Ministry of Labour and since 1957 into the newly created Ministry of Housing. In parallel to the National Housing Institute, the Obra Sindical del Hogar (OSH) was developed, which was in charge of public housing promotion (the INV was not, therefore, the public housing promoter, although it had powers, but rather a regulatory and management body for the system). The law also provided for an ambitious construction aid plan. Thus, in the case of RENFE we know that the company had to contribute initially only 10% of the value of the construction, a participation that was normally made in the value of the land on which to build, while the rest was distributed in advances and interest-free loans from the INP (50% to be returned in 20 years) and the INV (40% to be returned in the following 20 years). In other words, the land was contributed and the amounts financed through the aforementioned bodies were paid over a period of 40 years.

1944: Law on subsidised middle class housing. This law (including the 1948 and 1953 amendments and the 1954 revised text) is of great interest. Its initial name already gives a clue: Law of 25 November 1944 on the reduction of contributions and taxes in the construction of rental houses for the so-called ‘middle class’. Its preamble indicates that housing construction is one of the activities that contributes most to reducing unemployment rates and creating wealth, in addition to its reconstructive work on war damage and the alleviation of the housing problem. This law was intended for “those who … build housing or carry out renovations and extensions to housing…”. Its second article established the order of preference for: a) newly built housing on plots previously occupied by housing that had been totally or partially destroyed; b) the resumption of work that had been halted on properties intended for housing; and c) extensions, both in terms of height and surface area and in terms of height, on housing intended for rent and provided that the number of homes is increased.

It is a law that, in principle, had the dual objective of reducing unemployment and helping in the task of rebuilding property damage during the war. Its real aim was to help the middle classes to repair, rebuild or re-plan their rental (or non-retail) housing, just as the working classes had the public aid of the 1939 law. There is therefore an obvious industrialist character in the measure (building activity generates wealth) but also ideological (to satisfy the middle classes who had helped Franco to win): as the law itself says, “a direct contribution to the task of reconstructing the damage caused by the liberating war, with the consequent creation of wealth and a noticeable alleviation of the housing problem”. Initially the law was valid for four years and included projects that had to be started in 12 months and completed in 36 months, so this law had to be extended in November 1948 and 1953, modifying some partial issues. The 1948 modification was signed by the RENFE Board of Directors for the construction of housing for its “intellectual and bureaucratic classes”. In addition, a consolidated text was published in July 1954 through a joint order of the Ministries of Finance and Labour.

It is important to note that this legislation did not set any limits on the income of those who could benefit from it, which meant that it was applied even beyond the middle class. Initially, only the use of housing was allowed for rent, but later the sale and ownership of these homes was allowed. The tradition of building rental housing originated in the first third of the 20th century, but under Franco’s regime, the ownership of housing was to be extended and this also affected the middle classes, so that they also demanded this access to property with the aid given in other cases.

There were, therefore, two systems of official protection for housing (protected and subsidised), supervised respectively by the INV and the National Unemployment Board (JNP), which created numerous tensions and led to the unification of both regimes in the 1954 law under the centralised management of the INV, already under the name of limited income housing. The lower requirements for subsidized housing and the better financing conditions (or perhaps the existence of a middle class more able to access financing) led to a flood of requests for financing from the Institute of Credit for National Reconstruction.


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