That the Next Generation funds are a unique opportunity to bring homes up to date in terms of energy and for the rehabilitation, necessary in a large part of the residential stock, to finally take off, has been said for months. But, at least so far, it is a boost that is not being used sufficiently. And time is pressing, since the subsidies must have been awarded before the end of 2023. There is a scarce year left for those who have not yet done so to request them.
The set of actions for residential energy improvement in Catalonia has 480 million euros financed with the aforementioned European funds, divided into various programs, which would be enough to intervene in some 60,000 homes, according to sector estimates. Of this amount, in the chapter aimed at buildings, which includes works to improve thermal insulation in common spaces, it corresponds to 162.7 million, which would allow it to act on buildings that contain a total of 25,000 flats or houses. At the moment, the technicians are working on a number of files that represent some 10,000 homes with a view to submitting applications. A very small part – there are no updated figures in this regard – have already been formalized. They are, in any case, amounts that are clearly short if one takes into account the little margin of time that remains.
Some 25,000 households could benefit from aid from the building programme; Technicians work on files totaling 10,000
“We are in danger of letting this train pass, which may not return or may take a long time to do so and which would make it possible to improve many homes that need it,” warns Celestí Ventura, president of the College of Technical Architecture of Barcelona, an entity that, together with its counterparts from architects and property administrators collaborate with the administrations through the technical rehabilitation offices (OTR) that they have set up expressly to convey the actions. In the building program, all must go through them.
It is estimated that between 1.4 and 1.7 million homes in Catalonia (out of a total of more than three million) have energy deficiencies. A recent study by the Observatori Metropolità de l’Habitatge de Barcelona (OHB) concluded that 81% of the city’s buildings waste energy since they would obtain an efficiency rating of E or lower. The programs financed with the Next Generation funds will minimally lower these figures, but if they are fully deployed, they can begin to turn the situation around, especially that of the properties in the worst condition, which are those of the population with lower income levels. .
There is a short year left for the granting of subsidies and their processing requires at least three months
To receive aid from the multi-family and single-family buildings program, the works must entail, broadly speaking, a reduction of at least 30% in the consumption of non-renewable primary energy, something that, Ventura points out, “is very easy to achieve and even exceed, reaching 40, 50 or 60% in many isolated housing blocks built in the 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s because they have a lot of perimeter”. The interventions, of a passive nature, consist of “sheltering” them by acting on external common elements; for example, installing double glazing, changing windows, insulating facades, dividing walls and patios… Subsidies can cover up to 80% of the cost and families in a situation of economic vulnerability can receive 100% of the part that they would have to pay. In addition, there are ten-year soft loans to pay the part not covered by the aid, which allows the installments to be low.
The problem that OTRs encounter is that many files are for single-family homes, first or second homes. “They have the right to receive subsidies but a large part of their owners are not the ones who need them the most,” warns the manager of technical architects. These are properties that can normally receive a maximum of 6,300 euros (the ceiling if the energy saving is 30%) to cover 40% of the cost of the work. These houses and the small blocks between party walls of two, three or four homes account for half of the files being worked on in the building program.
Ventura defends acting decisively to reach the part of the residential stock with the most deficiencies so that the aid has “all the technical and social logic possible.” The scope is no less, since carrying out energy improvement works in large buildings, such as many of those on the outskirts of Barcelona and its metropolitan area, can lead to notable contributions, of more than 900,000 euros in a block of 50 homes in which that 60% of the cost be covered since the subsidies per floor can be 18,800 euros.
Single-family houses and small blocks account for half of the records of the building program, endowed with 162.7 million
Aware of what is at stake, the technical architects have created a registry of professionals interested in invigorating the matter, which has half a thousand registered people who work with administrators and owners. In addition, they have launched a call center. Similar measures are being promoted in the other schools. The idea is that communities know the possibilities they have to improve their properties and decide to ask for aid. “You don’t have to wait for ordinary meetings, which are often annual, extraordinary ones have to be called to activate it,” Ventura urges, since the processes require at least three months. Once they decide, they should consult the administrator or a specialized technician.
The benefits of energy rehabilitation with passive elements are very broad. In addition to contributing to a change in the use of energy, reducing the consumption of those of fossil origin, they also cut electricity and gas bills at a time when they have skyrocketed. And they bring greater comfort, well-being and conditions for the good health of people, in addition to increasing the value of homes.
Various programs running
A significant part of the Next Generation funds for residential energy rehabilitation goes to actions promoted by property owners. In addition to the building programme, endowed with 162.7 million euros, there is the housing programme, for private works (58.5 million). Another chapter is the book of the building, which gives an account of its condition and the improvements it requires, which has 43 million and which allows it to be had at zero cost. The largest endowment, 184.8 million, is for a block of actions promoted by the administrations through the neighborhood program, which is deployed by the city councils. In the case of Barcelona, it will take place in La Pau, Canyelles, Trinitat Vella, Congrés-Indians, Can Peguera and Besòs-Maresme.