THE RAILWAY HOUSING IN SPAIN (1939-1989). SOME MAGNITUDES (I)

At the beginning of this note, it is appropriate to indicate the reasons for the chronology used, which will be common in most of the texts published in this blog related to Spanish railway housing in the second half of the 20th century. The extreme dates are marked by two laws, that of 1939, which promoted the construction of protected housing, and that of 1989, on measures to finance protected housing, which would entail a significant change in the trajectory of social housing in Spain, since that a good part of the regulatory and promotional powers would pass to the Autonomous Communities, as established by the Spanish Constitution of 1978.

Thus, in the period 1949-1989 we have been able to count the construction of some 20,000 homes for railway workers, which were largely built by the workers themselves, as cooperatives and with the aim of gaining access to a home of their own.

RENFE’s housing stock for its employees increased considerably during this period, as can be seen from the fact that, in addition to the 7,000 homes for rent, some 2,500 homes were also built on loan for strategic positions for personnel from the Circulation and Works services. In addition, the company also owned housing that had been built by the former railway companies (before 1936) and were still in use. Finally, other companies in the railway sector, of a regional or local nature, also built homes for their employees, although in a much lower number (figure 1).

RENFE began the construction of these houses somewhat slowly, due to the lack of materials and the budgetary limitations that existed at that time. Financing, an issue that we will deal with in another post, was complex since, although up to 90% of promotions were financed through advances and loans from the INP and INV, remittances for spending did not arrive and RENFE chose for advancing money to pay contractors. In this way, it was able to carry out a construction rate of 300-400 homes per year in the most intense period, which was between 1950 and 1965; This last year was the moment in which the employee cooperatives took over, reaching even a thousand houses built annually. Also, in that first period, of companies and with dwellings preferably destined for rent, other companies in the sector appeared such as the Robla´s Railway Company, Vascongados, Economic railway of Asturias, Langreo, Cádiz´s tramways, Barcelona´s tramways or MACOSA. Many of these companies faced this task due to the obligation imposed in the regulation that pushed companies to make a minimum quota of housing available to their workers. This circumstance was reflected in the construction projects with a generic stamp that read: “Companies forced to build”.

The second period is, as we have indicated, that of worker cooperatives, where those of RENFE employees would also be more active, which would develop regulations to encourage their construction, although there would also be a presence of cooperatives of Employees of Urban Transport of Barcelona , of Valencia electric railways or MACOSA. This period also coincides with the peak of the development of workers’ housing cooperatives in Spain, encouraged by the regime. From the 1970s onwards, activity decreased significantly (Figure 2).

In addition to the total volume and its temporal distribution, it is relevant to know where these homes were built (Figure 3). In total, houses and neighbourhoods were built in 99 cities or railway hubs, although the urban area, and especially the large towns, were the most numerous locations. Thus, Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona had more than a thousand homes built, and Malaga, Seville, Ciudad Real, Zaragoza and Bilbao had around half a thousand homes built.

The data presented here shows the national nature of the construction of railway housing during the second half of the 20th century, although it was clearly urban, in close correlation with the progressive urbanisation of the country during this period.

Likewise, the construction boom period coincides, on one hand, with the greatest expansion of the Spanish railway system, and, on the other hand, with the most intense phase of the real estate explosion brought about by Franco’s development. Finally, the historical sequence also shows the change in home ownership, from renting to owning, which is one of the signs of identity of the Spanish real estate market and Spanish society in general, from these years onwards.


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