Housing emergency in autumn
BarcelonaCharities and campaigners fear that after October 31, which is when the anti-eviction moratorium approved by the Spanish government during the pandemic expires, there could be a real avalanche of evictions in Catalonia. They expect at many as 26,000, almost double the 15,000 recorded in 2013, the highest ever. In addition, after the Constitutional Court overturned the Catalan housing law, it is estimated that there are about 3,200 vulnerable families who have not been able to renew their social housing rental, and who may now therefore become homeless. Everything suggests, then, that by mid-autumn there will be a major housing crisis in Catalonia, and that to avoid it, or at least mitigate its effects as much as possible, work must be carried out immediately.
The first step that charities and campaigners have already taken is to propose a new law that recovers most of the social improvements foreseen in the overturned law. One of the most problematic aspects is that the Constitutional Court annulled large landlords' obligation to first offer, and then renew, social rents to vulnerable people. This decision, coupled with the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, has left many people on the brink of the abyss. This is one of the many reforms that we must try to recover in the new law, which has the support of ERC, Junts, En Comú and CUP in the Catalan Parliament. Of course, a way will need to be found to get past the Constitutional Court, whose conservative bias will not make things easy.
At the same time, this has to be just one leg of a much broader strategy to solve the housing problem, especially in the city of Barcelona, where market prices are prohibitive for many families. The Generalitat and the city councils need to implement an ambitious plan to build public rental housing that will put downward pressure on prices and allow young people to leave the family home earlier than they do now. This could also be done through refurbishing old buildings. We must remember Pedro Sánchez announced part of the European funds would be destined to making old buildings more energy efficient; in fact, the reduction in energy bills this would entail also ought to be a factor in fighting poverty.
It would therefore be a matter of combining a boost to green housing with a social policy that would solve the lack of public housing for vulnerable families and young people. The inclusion of a reference rental price has served to prevent an upward bubble, but experts do not quite agree on its real impact. That is why we must start thinking both in the short term, to avoid a housing emergency in the autumn, and in the long term, to lay the foundations for a much more equitable and intergenerationally fair access to housing.