Barakaldo is a medium-sized municipality in the Greater Bilbao area. Following the industrial recession of the 1980s, Barakaldo experienced significant population decline and local unemployment rose to over 10%. At the turn of the century, much of the town’s industrial heritage was redeveloped and the population stabilized at just over 100,000 people. The growth of the service sector boosted employment and slowed down depopulation.
However, Spain’s prolonged turmoil after the global financial crisis lasted well into the 2010s, pushing Barakaldo’s unemployment to almost 20%, and youth unemployment even higher. Whilst Barakaldo’s former industrial zone did yield some of the “Guggenheim” effect, most of the tourism revenue still flows into Bilbao.
The municipality has been making significant efforts to support young people by expanding the stock of affordable housing, however, continued precarious employment and insufficient income of young people remain the biggest barriers that young people face when wanting to establish an independent adult life.
Through UPLIFT, Barakaldo City Council is hoping to identify the needs and key challenges of local working youth in order to co-create holistic support services for vulnerable young people. Whilst having access to supported housing schemes, young people will have the opportunity to take part in individualized development programs that intend to improve soft skills and employability, provide complex and up-to-date labour market updates, job search advice as well as coaching. Activities will be adapted in order to integrate specific needs based on cultural (migrant) background and/or gender. Understanding the causes for the ongoing struggles that these young people experience, will allow for the development of longer term local policies according to a reflexive policy agenda.
Local action plan
With regard to the draft local action plan for Barakaldo, it is important to highlight that the document only contains the perspective of the scientific partner Orkestra (DF). This is due to the fact that the implementation partner for this functional urban area, the Municipality of Barakaldo, is restructuring its internal project coordination team. Therefore, the municipality has not yet been able to contribute to the local action plan. In the near future, the collaboration between Orkestra and the municipality of Barakaldo will be intensified, which may give rise to some adaptations, and a further specification of the action plan.
Problem statement and target group
Quite some young people in Barakaldo are in a vulnerable situation. This is manifest in various life domains (education, employment), but particularly so in the field of housing. Due to unemployment, precarious jobs, low wages, family obligations (care for minors or elderly) and a tight housing market, finding a suitable and affordable dwelling is impossible for many Barakaldese youngsters between 18 and 29 years. Prices in the owner-occupancy and the private rented sector tend to be unaffordable, whereas social rental dwellings are short in supply and sometimes of insufficient quality. Consequently, there is a strong need for new innovative housing policies, that are better tailored to the needs and capabilities of the young generation. Through participatory action research with young people and co-creation with institutional stakeholders, the action plan attempts to provide a bottom-up basis for such new policies. Its main objective is to create a “local soft space for discussion”, where the different stakeholders involved can share, discuss, compare and co-generate ideas and proposals that may serve as inputs for the design of policy and programmes focused at reducing housing inequality among youth.
The main institutional stakeholder is the municipality of Barakaldo, which is responsible for most of the housing policies concerning the younger generation. Another important local institutional partner is the municipal company Eretza S.A., who participates in new housing and housing rehabilitation projects for young people within Barakaldo. A third institutional partner is the Goiztiri Elkartea Association, an expert representative in the territory on issues related to groups at risk of social exclusion.
The voice of the young people in Barakaldo will mainly be articulated by the youth board. This is a diverse group of youngsters aged between 18 and 29 that is at risk of housing inequality. The youth board is a group of 12 to 15 young people that will participate in the co-creation process. Members for the youth board will be recruited through local youth associations. A range of ideas for keeping the young people engaged and making the youth board meetings fruitful and attractive have already been developed, for example offering child care for young people with children, organizing exhibitions and creating virtual discussion spaces.
The co-creation process will primarily take place with the youth board. Nevertheless, in several meetings, other young people (from the so-called youth pool) and institutional stakeholders may join the discussion as well. The process will consist of various stages: problem analysis, policy evaluation and formulation of policy alternatives and presentation of the policy alternatives to the municipality. The precise topics for the co-creation process will be determined at a later stage, in consultation between the scientific partner, the institutional partners and of course the youth board itself. Finally, it is worth mentioning that during the research approach some other tools will be used to smooth the thematic familiarization of the participants in the sessions, such as snapshot diaries, idea sheets, narrative videos, etc.