What Are We Building in Vitoria-Gasteiz?

What Are We Building in Vitoria-Gasteiz?

07/01/21 / Keyword: building

ECP coach Kez investigates town planning in Vitoria. Why are there so many empty and derelict buildings and why are there new ones being built?

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Useful vocabulary

wholeheartedly: with complete sincerity and commitment

the other side of the coin: the opposite aspect of a subject

when it comes down to…: when a specific matter is under consideration

homelessness (n): the state of having no home. (adj) homeless

to squat: to illegally occupy an uninhabited building (squatting)

(adj) squatted (n) squatters

derelict: in a bad condition because of disuse and neglect

begging: asking for food or money, given voluntarily by others
to crumble: to fall apart; to disintegrate

to cave in: to collapse

outlying: far from the centre

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ECP coach Kez investigates town planning in Vitoria. Why are there so many empty and derelict buildings and why are there new ones being built?

The city we live in, Vitoria-Gasteiz, was recently named by National Geographic magazine as being one of the best travel destinations for 2021. The article refers to urban nature conservation and preservation of tradition, and the buildings in its historic quarter.
I agree wholeheartedly that the city is worthy of this accolade, however today, I want to look at the other side of the coin.

As in all cities, Vitoria has many problems to face, some which are easier to solve than others. When it comes down to our quality of life, subjects such as homelessness and squatting, empty and derelict buildings, house prices and rent must be tackled so that our society can be fair and more equal.

It was claimed that our town has only 10 homeless people living on the streets, something I find quite hard to believe when I walk across it to see more and more people begging and asking for public help. Even if this is true, I think that this is 10 too many. Why?

Well, there are so many empty buildings here that there is no good reason why anyone should be left destitute. The sole motive for creating housing should be so that people can live in them. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case with many individuals and institutions trying to make a quick profit while others have nothing.

In a more fair and equal society, it should not be necessary for people to have to squat. In Vitoria, not only do we have the biggest squatted district in the whole of Europe in Errekaleor, we have various other locations where squatters come into conflict with the police, the town council and property owners.

Not only are there far too many unoccupied flats but as you can see in the video, there are also incredible buildings dating from as far back as the 12th century that have been left to crumble, such as the Casa Maturana-Verástegui, whose roof caved in just before Christmas.

Yet all this seems to contradict the fact that house prices and rental costs here are so incredibly high. The minimum price for a council house is €150,000 and it is almost impossible to rent a flat for less than €700 a month. How is this possible when supply is higher than demand? Surely, if there is so much accommodation available, the prices should be coming down.

It is also possible to see many new constructions being built, not only on the outskirts of the town and the outlying villages but also on vacant pieces of land in town. Do we really need them, and if so, who are they for? I had a conversation with a neighbour who said that she had 8 flats here, but she was complaining about another neighbour who had more!

The council seems to have money for certain projects but not for the ones that would maintain the beauty and the attraction of the old part or provide shelter for the people who most need it. I feel there should be more equality in society and that there should be access to housing for everyone. It is a basic human right and it should not be used to help the rich get richer.

Written by ECP coach Kez Kurien.

Let’s chat about building in Vitoria-Gasteiz!

  1. How would you answer the 3 questions in the text?
  2. Which ideas do you agree with and which ones do you disagree with? 
  3. Can you recognise the buildings in the video?
  4. Can you explain your opinion about squatting & squatters?
  5. Which projects in your town deserve public money and which ones don’t? Why?

Take a moment to look at these related articles!

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