Masoveria Urbana, Vilafranca, Spain


Masoveria Urbana, Vilafranca, Spain

Mismatches Vulnerable groups Vacant housing
Policies and regulations Local policies Regulation Participatory processes
Promotion and production Private promotion Self-management
Ownership and tenure

Main objectives of the project

In the global North, there's often a misconception that access to affordable housing is limited to either ownership or renting. However, historical precedents suggest otherwise. Vilafranca leveraged an ancient land ownership and possession scheme permitted by their traditional private law to devise a solution for affordable housing: the concept of "masoveria”. In Catalan tradition, "masoveria" entails an agreement wherein a property owner grants the use of a house in the countryside to a tenant at no cost. In return, the tenant assumes responsibility for maintaining and cultivating the land and fields associated with the property. This concept has been adapted in urban contexts through initiatives known as "Urban Farmhousing" or "Masoveria Urbana." In these initiatives, buildings in need of renovation and often left vacant are temporarily leased by the owner to tenants at no charge. In exchange, the tenant undertakes necessary rehabilitation works to improve the property.


  • 2017: Implementation


  • Vilafranca City Council


Continent: Europe
Country/Region: Spain


Vilafranca del Panadès, located in the same region as Barcelona, is considered part of its metropolitan area despite its position on the frontier with the countryside. As the capital of wine in Catalonia, Vilafranca boasts a rich tradition of agriculture. Interestingly, this tradition has become pivotal in addressing the city's urban challenges.

Within the framework of the ALT/BAU URBACT network, Vilafranca identified a significant number of vacant buildings in its city center. The objective was to restore these buildings to tackle the city's most pressing issue: the housing crisis. Following the economic downturn of 2008, finding affordable housing in Vilafranca became increasingly difficult, with prices soaring. Meanwhile, many vacant buildings remained in need of refurbishment, offering potential solutions that could benefit younger residents.

In the rural areas surrounding Vilafranca, there exists a particular type of unused contract known as Masoveria. Under this arrangement, a landowner grants a "masover" the use of the land for agricultural purposes, allowing the landowner to retain ownership while the "masover" benefits from cultivating the land. Recognizing the potential application of this concept in the housing sector, Vilafranca sought to adapt it to their urban challenges.

The proposed solution operates on a simple premise: property owners lacking the financial means to renovate their vacant buildings lease them to younger individuals, who take responsibility for refurbishing the properties. In exchange, the tenants have the right to use the house unit with the condition of improving it. This arrangement not only addresses the housing crisis by providing access to housing without exorbitant costs but also benefits property owners by ensuring their properties are maintained and improved.

This system allows people without house to access one (without paying the market prices!). And then, people with vacant houses earn someone maintaining it and improving it. Central to the success of this initiative is the support of the local council. The municipality actively promotes this model through its website and press releases, maintaining a list of interested owners and tenants. Potential matches are facilitated through initial meetings, with the municipality offering assistance in drafting leasing contracts and navigating the process. Additionally, the municipality serves as a mediator if necessary, fostering collaboration between owners and tenants.

To further promote awareness and engagement, the city council organizes festivities in areas with vacant buildings, featuring music and family events on weekends. These events aim to attract citizens to these areas, allowing them to explore the vacant buildings and appreciate their heritage value. Ultimately, the goal is to empower citizens to make use of these opportunities and contribute to the revitalization of these spaces.

This project exemplifies two key insights: firstly, the innovative utilization of traditional legal frameworks to provide affordable housing without significant public expenditure, and secondly, the proactive role of the public sector in facilitating collaboration among stakeholders, positioning it as a leader in urban development rather than merely a provider of services.