La Borda

An Innovative Housing Cooperative
A housing cooperative that provides decent, non-speculative housing by repurposing industrial premises, challenging the traditional notion of private space through shared facilities and communal spaces, and exploring new models of organising living spaces


Building on successful models of mutual ownership, building and housing associations, and co-living arrangements, cooperative housing can resist norms of privatised ownership that privilege the wealthiest and marginalise everyone else in substandard housing. Moving away from a profit-driven model of housing provision, co-housing and shared ownership schemes can flourish as spatial forms of social welfare.


In June 2011, after 30 years waiting for city officials to transform Can Batlló, a former industrial site located in Barcelona’s Sants-Monjuïc district, people from the adjacent neighbourhood occupied the site. They established a participatory process of open assemblies with neighbours and local organisations to determine how the site could be used. Through this discursive process, they formed sub-committees to focus on financial management, the design of open spaces, and media communication, offering a collective response to some of the community’s needs. By involving different people (including architects), the initiative reconfigured the production of housing as a grassroots and participatory experience.1Eduard Cabré, and Andrés Arnau, “La Borda: A Case Study on the Implementation of Cooperative Housing in Catalonia” International Journal of Housing Policy 18.3 (July 3, 2018): pp. 412-32 <>

In 2012, the group established La Borda housing cooperative under the legal term “cession of use”, referring to the right of tenants to occupy a housing unit for free or in exchange for some type of economic or in-kind compensation. Importantly, La Borda’s housing model provides long-term affordable housing, unlike some development projects that offer social housing for a limited period before it is sold on the private market. La Borda worked with the architect cooperative Lacol to build an environmentally low-impact block comprising 28 units, communal space, a rooftop garden, and extensive shared facilities. Using Cross Laminated Timber and repurposed scrap material, the 6-floor structure’s ecologically careful design chimes with its social aim of reconfiguring what it means to consume materials and inhabit space, shifting parameters towards the recycled and shared.

Radically reinterpreting what housing is, La Borda focuses on sharing ideas, space, and facilities in a process of co-design and cohabitation, challenging the traditional model of individual ownership and consumption. Emerging from public debate and iterative learning processes, La Borda demonstrates the social and environmental value of designing housing carefully, over time, and with enough imagination to move beyond private ownership conventions towards convivial and climate-attuned alternatives.


  • 1
    Eduard Cabré, and Andrés Arnau, “La Borda: A Case Study on the Implementation of Cooperative Housing in Catalonia” International Journal of Housing Policy 18.3 (July 3, 2018): pp. 412-32 <>

External links

Sostre Cívic—non profit association who disseminated the “cession of use” cooperative model in Barcelona. 

Le Village Vertical—a cooperative and a co-housing project in Lyon 

Habicoop—French Federation of housing co-operatives