Bilbao Social Housing is a hands-on municipal instrument for implementing Bilbao City Council’s subsidized housing policy. Bilbao City Council has been very active in addressing the great sustainability challenges facing the city in the last decades, through a comprehensive transition strategy, combining the social, environmental and economic dimensions. Bilbao City Council ranks first in Transparency International Index of Spanish municipalities in terms of transparency. Transparency International (TI) – a NGO universally devoted to combating corruption, brings civil society, private sector and governments on a global-wide coalition – draws index transparency of local councils (ITA). This index is a tool to measure the level of transparency to citizens and society of Spanish municipalities, through an integrated set of 80 indicators.


Bilbao is the capital of Bizkaia, in the Basque Country (Spain). The territory as a whole has undergone radical transformation in recent years to face the challenges of the 21st century. Over the last 30 years, Bilbao has evolved from a city with serious environmental problems and a structurally run-down industrial system to being one of the most attractive cities in Europe to live in, visit and invest.

Subsidized dwellings that make up Bilbao Social Housing are designed for those groups facing the greatest difficulty in finding a home on the open market, due to their social or economic circumstances. Among them, youth represents a particular target for Bilbao Social Housing.

As a result of the changing global socio-cultural and economic conditions, the transition to adulthood is indeed becoming increasingly complex, particularly in urban contexts, while leaving the parents’ home is becoming the main symbol of this transition. In these conditions, it is increasingly important to design new housing policies aiming to ensure the right of young people to become homeowners or tenants at an affordable cost.

In parallel, young people often have time and energy to invest in their neighbourhoods, resources that are much needed to help local organisations address issues such as ageing or social exclusion.


Bilbao Social Housing Solidarity Youth Flats program is a practical, innovative and sustainable way to increase access to affordable housing for graduate students and young people, who in turn are willing and ready to contribute to community life in the neighbourhoods where they live. With this program they can access shared housing rental dwellings, at a nominal price of 50 €.

The City, as the owner of the social housing stock, commits to make a certain number of subsidized dwellings available for students or young workers; the latter, in exchange, agree to invest some time in small-scale projects and activities carried out by local associations, based on their knowledge, skills and the local needs. These projects project include, for example actions with organisations that are dedicated to supporting people in social exclusion, as well as collaboration with groups of immigrants, youth, women, children and disabled. These associations are: Bizitegi, Susterra, Caritas, Tendel, Create Africa Bakuva and Aldauri Foundation. They collaborate in addition with public entities and care specialists institutions to support seniors with chronic illnesses who reside in their homes (Osakidetza), as well as supporting extracurricular activities in schools (schools and colleges), and the promotion of culture in the city (Historical Bilbao).

This program focuses on underprivileged neighbourhoods, in particular in the suburban areas, where the needs for social cohesion projects and improved social mix are the greatest.

The program, started in 2010, is now part of the City’s Strategic Plan.


Key results and benefits

  • Improved access to housing for youth, in particular students, during the academic year: 14 shared dwellings in 2013, for 41 students in several disadvantaged neighbourhoods
  • Increased resources for local associations and third sector organisations’ projects, in the frame of neighbou­rhoods’ regeneration schemes: 20 hours a month spent by each young tenant during the academic year
  • Improved living and environmental conditions and greater social interaction in underprivileged areas
  • Promotion of social cohesion and a “civic culture”, through the integration and participation of university students in the community life
  • Development of skills for youth
  • Enhanced citizens’ trust and confidence in public institutions, through young citizens’ direct involvement and tangible results in improving districts’ quality of life

European Responsible Housing Awards 2014

Modalidad Local social sustainability