A company in Barcelona has sparked outrage by suggesting that tiny living pods may be the answer to the housing problems of some Western cities. Each minuscule pod measures a mere 2.4 sq m (25.8 sq ft) making it somewhat smaller than a double bed.
The city’s mayor has disagreed with the proposals but the company remains undeterred; Haibu 4.0 is pressing on with the project. The company started building its first pods in empty business premises and the initial 38 capsules are due to be launched this autumn.
Barcelona’s current regulations dictate that housing units have a minimum floor space of at least 40 sq m to be considered ‘liveable’, so the pods fall way short of the law. Íñigo Errejon, from anti-austerity political party Podemos, said there were “similar houses in cemeteries – they are called coffins”.
‘Haibu’ means beehive in Japanese and the pods take their inspiration from Japan’s popular capsule hotels. Each pod has a bed, TV, storage shelf and power sockets with access to shared facilities including bathroom and living/kitchen area equipped with a microwave oven. It is intended for the pods to be rented out to people aged between 25 and 40 for a monthly ‘rent’ of approximately €200 (£180) including bills and wi-fi. The rules will stipulate that only one person is allowed to live in each pod and everyone must maintain respect for others living in such close proximity.
One of the entrepreneurs behind the project, Victoria Cerdan, said the pods were intended to offer accommodation for people who cannot afford other housing and will enable everyone to “band together and move ahead”. She said: “Obviously it is not adequate housing, no one would want it for themselves. But no one wants a monthly salary of 500 euros and, unfortunately, they exist. Instead of living on the street, we offer this.”
Another partner at Haibu 4.0, Edi Wattenwil, said the pods at least provide accommodation with privacy which is harder to find in hostels with several people sharing a room. He said: “Citizens who are going through a difficult financial period should not have to sleep out on the streets or in a hostel. Our company lets them live with dignity.”
Rent is soaring in big Spanish cities, so it comes as no surprise that a solution is being sought. The average rent for a flat in Barcelona has gone up by a third in three years. The average monthly salary in Spain is €1,930 with an average rent of over €900 for a small flat.
Haibu 4.0, plans to move the project to other European cities with high rents, including Paris, Rome and Copenhagen, if the authorities in Barcelona do not allow them to operate.