0. The future looks bleak... and compact.
Every year, prices for housing in Barcelona keep increasing and it gets harder for people to afford to live in the city.
But, at the same time, cars keep occupying a sizeable portion of the city's public space.
It seems like it's easier for cars to exist in the city than it is for people. After all, parking is significantly cheaper and easier to get than a room or a flat.
Given this consideration, I thought of an absurd premise: "would it be better for people to actually live in a car?"
This is Sleep Small, a little sarcastic experiment to prove the feasibility of this premise.
(And yes, the name is a reference to the iconic BMW Think Small ad).
1. Have you considered living in a car?
I know it sounds bad. And depressing. But before you say no and close this website for suggesting something so jarring, hear me out.
Housing prices in Barcelona are insane: a person with a minimum wage job (€965 a month*) has to spend half their salary on rent in order to afford a tiny room in the city. Probably cramped up with other 4 people and, luckily, a small dog.
Finding decent housing in the city is a herculean task, and an expensive one on top. Especially when you’re looking for a room. Because, unlike renting a full place for yourself, you never know what you’ll get by coexisting with other human beings. Maybe you get lucky and your roomies are nice. Or maybe they’re the most annoying beings alive. Maybe they’ll cook together with you, or they’ll steal your food, toilet paper, and will to live. The possibilities are diverse and the stakes are high.
For this exercise, let’s assume you get a horrible combination of people to live with. In an itty bitty space. And paying more than you should.
Considering this, explore with me the dystopian but not-so-implausible idea of ditching cohabitation and the utility bills to live in a car.
* Source: Consejo de Ministros. (2021, Sep 28). "El Gobierno eleva el Salario Mínimo Interprofesional a 965 euros y prorroga los ERTE hasta el 28 de febrero." La Moncloa
2. In Spain, beds have standard sizes and everyone loves Ikea
Living in a car is definitely a worst-case scenario. So let’s compare it to its equivalent in housing: living in one of the smallest rooms in Barcelona.
I surfed Idealista in pursuit of the most cramped spaces. If you’ve ever had to search there, you’d know that nearly none of the ads have measurements of the rooms. And of course, they don’t, if people really knew how small a space is, they probably wouldn’t even bother checking it out unless they were desperate. And I’m definitely not, not even for research purposes, so I had to pursue a different approach: guesstimating.
Using my Trained Señora Eye™, I attempted to measure the rooms by identifying common, standard-measure items in them like beds, outlets, doors, and Ikea furniture. Then, I used them as a scale to calculate the size of the room.
Of course, there may be errors. What if it’s a 90 cm bed instead of an 80 cm one? But, for practical purposes, this margin is fine. At least it’s better than bringing a measuring tape while a stranger stares at me uncomfortably. That is a surefire way to get the measurements wrong along with a taste of anxiety and awkwardness.
3. Crunching numbers
Let’s calculate one of the rooms together: this cozy, little space in Carrer del Baluard.
First: identify common items and spaces. By the angle of the photos (and the lack of a photo facing the side of the bed), we could assume that the left side of the bed is as far as the room goes. The door looks like the smallest standard available (62,5 cm for interior doors), and it’s not so small compared to the bed so probably that’s also the smallest single bed available.
The chest of drawers is definitely not Ikea, so it can’t be used as a scale. The closet space, on the other hand, looks roughly the same size as the bedroom door and it fits inside the empty space with some centimeters to spare, let’s assume 20. In other words: the space barely fits another 80 cm single bed.
With this in mind, it's time to draw some room schematics!
4. Meet the Seat 600: Spain's iconic mini car
The Seat 600 (read as “seiscientos”, not six hundred) is a city car built in Spain by SEAT (Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo).
This economic boom-era vehicle was manufactured and sold from May 1957 to August 1973 under a license from Fiat. Back then, it helped start the Spanish miracle that came at the end of the recovery from the Civil War.
The car was relatively inexpensive back then, and it was accessible for most Spanish families’ budgets. This made it easy for the car to become widely adopted and, due to its widespread use and size, iconic. It was also known as "pelotilla" (little ball), "seílla", or "seíta" (both stand for little SEAT) and "ombligo" (navel), because everybody had one.
For this story’s purpose, when I say “living in a car”, I mean this car.
But it’s sooooo small!
I know. But if we’re doing bad scenarios, let's commit to the bit.
5. Baby you can('t) park my car
Alright, we have both the room and car size now. It's testing time: let's park the cars.
As you can see in the visualization below, the Seat 600 only fits comfortably in the €430 × month room in Sant Miquel. In the rest... not even close. And €430 × month is kinda cheap by Barcelona standards... oof.
So yeah, 3 out of 4 of my small selection of rooms aren't even big enough to fit an iconic small car.
6. Driving the point home
To finish this bleak scenario, let's add the price variable. Is it worth it to accept this sad reality and live in the pelotilla's lovely leather seat?
According to my numbers, it is.
I looked for a used Seat 600 D and calculated:
a. How many months of rent does it cost to buy the car.
b. How many months of rent does it cost to park in Boquería: a parking lot right in the center of Ramblas.
If we're doing this, we deserve to live in the city center at least. Let's not sacrifice all convenience even in the face of the housing apocalypse.
And here are the results:
So, there it is.
Living in your car might be better in the long run. Just... use the parking lot's toilets for your sanitary needs and you're golden. They're included in your fee anyway.
The future is compact: it's time to ditch your horrible roomies, forget about rent and bills and just... sleep small.
Project advised by Paadín
Prices and data were gathered from
Rodalies de Catalunya