The five challenges of urban rehabilitation. The Catalan experience

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Since the mid-1990s, in Spain the evolution of the real estate market and the behaviour of demographical variables have led to an increased risk of social segregation in urban areas. In order to tackle the problems arising from this situation, the regional government of Catalonia promoted the Catalan Neighbourhoods Act. Passed in 2004, the law has enabled to undertake rehabilitation programmes in 141 neighbourhoods, affecting more than 1 million people (13% of total population) and a total committed investment of €1.33 billion. The experience shows some special features in the European context: first, it does not treat underprivileged neighbourhoods as an exception, but handles intervention in these areas as a structural urban policy; second, unlike the eminently reactive approach of many rehabilitation experiences, the approach of the Neighbourhoods Act is above all preventive; finally, the Catalan programme is not limited in time, but is indefinite: it began 7 years ago and has committed to action for at least 5 or 6 more years. Moreover, the scope of the resources mobilized and the neighbourhoods involved to date give the programme a level of power that is not easy to find in other European regions. The article describes the main features of the programme and explains how putting it into action has necessarily involved the need to face five challenges: inter-administrative cooperation; the cross-cutting nature of the programme and the comprehensiveness of action; citizen participation; forming a consensus; and the assessment of results and accountability. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-325
JournalUrban Research and Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2011


  • Catalonia
  • Urban rehabilitation
  • Urban segregation


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