Vicente Boissier (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1958), dean of the Official College of Architects of Gran Canaria, is optimistic about the reactivation of construction after the crisis, but he regrets that the lack of qualified labor hinders the take-off of the sector . Looking to the future, it points to the need for a new residential model that adapts to current families and that is capable of solving the problem of access to decent housing. Boissier calls on the public administrations more agility, to avoid investors leaving tired of waiting for their files to be executed.
What is the current state of health of the sector? Have you recovered from the crisis?
The sector has been recovering little by little since 2017 thanks to the tourist renewal. Although last year was very good, in 2019 the private sector is being much more cautious. In addition, we have a very big problem with the public administrations, because they are very slow and they make big investments go away.
Is there a fear of a new housing bubble?
There should be always. Although I hope it will not happen again, because I think that there is now a real demand for housing and that the bubble was created by an overload of loans from banks to people who could not really afford the houses they bought.
Is housing one of the issues most damaged by the crisis?
At the time of the crisis the situation was not very desirable. There was an artificial economic activity, because it was being built above demand. Now the demand is above the offer. We have not built a house for about twelve years and that has generated a tremendous delay. Housing is the main problem that the country has, because people do not have the economic capacity to access the purchase of a house. We have to investigate the property model to make houses accessible and avoid problems of social exclusion, generated mostly by the lack of decent housing.
What pathways must be studied to solve the housing problem?
Private investment has to be incorporated into housing and we must try to look for new models of shared ownership. We continue to work with the residential model of the 90s, but the needs of people have changed, since society is aging and the birth rate has dropped. Perhaps, once the children leave the family home, these houses can be assigned to young families with children and the elderly can move to smaller homes. These are approaches that we have to study, because this has to be managed as a long-term strategic project. It is not worth the short-term of the four years of a legislature, it has to be something continuista. You have to be resilient because society and cities are changing. We have to stop protesting and start proposing.
Construction is pulling slightly from job creation, is it noticeable in the architecture sector?
Of course it shows, although the projects that reach the architects are much less ambitious than before, because there is still a bit of a hangover from the crisis and people do not want to get mortgaged much later than we have spent. In construction we have a serious problem of lack of manpower, which prevents the sector from starting strongly. The professionals, after ten years of the construction break, have relocated and there are no skilled workers, there are even companies that are importing professionals from outside. Those who start now have little training and technological demands are getting higher.
The young architects complain that the job offers that come to them are as collaborators or as false self-employed workers. For what is this?
Those who are trained in the School of Architecture learn a lot about the profession, but do not come prepared to face the world. They lack economic training and they do not know how the administration works, the taxes, the investors or the clients. He is a professional with many knowledge, but does not know where to look in the labor market or how to start.
Would it be necessary for the university to include this type of training?
Definitely. In addition, they should be in contact with the professional world from the first course, so they would be more prepared to face reality and competition. On the other hand, training should be more open, because it seems that if an architect does not make buildings is a failure, but there are many branches in which they can develop as professionals and all are equally valid.
Are architects looking for alternative ways such as reforms?
It is a fundamental field of work. We have to rehabilitate buildings and put them in conditions of sustainability, energy efficiency and accessibility, because we have an obsolete real estate park. The properties that are not able to be remodeled, will be demolished and will be built under a new model of residence that society is demanding.
Does the urban environment also have to be reformed?
Yes, it is a matter of emergency. You have to get the cars out of the cities, to give conditions of habitability and safety to the cities. We need to research and work to make cities sustainable. The organizational model of the cities has to change. Now we have the need for closeness and shops are being reopened to which you can walk to avoid going to the shopping centers of the outskirts, it is urbanism of proximity. It is a revolution, but we are not all aware of it.
Is green architecture part of the future of cities?
The legislation that forces us to create buildings with very little energy demand, so that it can be supported by alternative systems. The green architecture right now is a great trend that is in all speeches. It is an architecture in which vegetation is very present. The best and the cheapest way to generate oxygen and build CO2 are trees. In cities, they provide health, purify the air and generate landscape, the problem is that not all regions have the same climate to implement green architecture.
How does the blockade of permits for the construction of hotels in the south of Gran Canaria affect the sector and end up scaring investors?
The great projects that are done here are not entrusted to local architects. They tend to be multinationals that have their own technical teams. Once the facilities are developed, they do pull local technicians for the management and execution of the works. An investment of 30 or 40 million euros, which is what a hotel costs, means that 2,000 people from different fields are working for two or three years. The loss of these projects is not so much what it means for the architects, as for the related sectors.
What do you ask the new government to promote the sector?
Improve the efficiency of public administration, its slowness is lethal to our sector, especially for small local investors, who do not have the capacity to go elsewhere. The big ones, if they do not invest here, take it to another part of the planet. An effort must be made to simplify the regulations and define the responsibilities of each area.
Is there any urban project in Gran Canaria that is essential for the future?
Mobility is a pending issue. It can not be that there are jams at all hours to go south and that is not solved with more lanes. I think the solution can be the train and it should not be a political decision, but a technical one. It is also essential that the planning documents are more flexible and that the different general plans are coordinated, so that there is an integral management of the Island.
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