housing


housing
   Housing in Spain runs the entire gamut of housing types, from the rudimentary shacks of the shanty towns to opulent detached villas located on the outskirts of towns, or in prestigious suburbs like the nineteenth-century Salamanca district of Madrid. In older towns and cities there are traditional dwellings constructed around an attractive inner patio, often with an elegant upper gallery supported by pillars. The predominant urban housing type, however, is the apartment block, a category which itself includes considerable variety. The nineteenth-century expansion of towns and cities produced a range of medium-scale constructions of four to six stories, of varying levels of building quality. Many of these, especially in the inner suburbs of Madrid and Barcelona, are still in good condition, occupy a relatively expensive band of the housing market, and are much sought after by high earners. In smaller provincial cities, however, some of these traditional tenements are in a poor state of repair. In the mid-1990s, it was estimated that there were over half a million buildings in poor condition in Spain, notably in the Basque country, where since 1992 some 130,000m pesetas has been invested in refurbishment. The urban landscape in Spain is, however, dominated by high-rise apartment blocks of relatively recent construction. Demand for housing in the 1960s and 1970s stimulated rapid building programmes, the legacy of which is seen in poorly planned developments of high-density, low-quality dwellings, with inadequate infrastructure and services. In 1970, for example, the suburb of Moratalaz in Madrid had the population of a sizeable town, with 90,000 inhabitants. In developments like these, especially in provincial towns, basic domestic operations like cooking depended to a large extent on bottled gas rather than main services, and travel to and from work involved substantial expense and investment of time.
   The quality of housing in the 1990s reflects the greater prosperity of the country at large, and the higher expectations of home-owners for a better standard of comfort and decor. In addition, concerns about personal security have made some form of controlled entry, including videoscreening, a basic feature of new apartment blocks. Occupiers no longer rely on bottled gas for cooking: by 1996, 2.5 million homes were connected to main supplies of natural gas. Higher safety standards have required the provision of automatic cut-off devices for gas supply, and smoke detectors in each apartment. Homeowners display greater awareness and sophistication with regard to decor and furnishings. In 1996, there were ten monthly magazines catering for the taste of this clientele, for instance El Mueble (Furniture), Nuevo Estilo (New Style) and Casa y Jardín (House and Garden). With an increasing proportion of the female population in employment, the emphasis is on ease of maintenance, with duvets replacing blankets, and increasing reliance on easyto-clean surfaces such as vinyls and fungicide-treated paints. In the kitchen, built-in appliances, ceramic surfaces and the use of microwave ovens have become the norm.
   Over and above this, many of the changes simply reflect aesthetic rather than functional criteria. The pressure for modernization on all fronts since the end of the Franco regime expressed itself in, among other things, an increased interest in interior design, with both official and private bodies striving to heighten public awareness of developments in design both within Spain and elsewhere.
   See also: consumerism; design
   EAMONN RODGERS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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