12/08/2021

Real estate racism

2 min
Panoramic view of Barcelona

One out of every three complaints received by SOS Racismo for discrimination in social rights has to do with housing. Getting a minimally decent place to live is nowadays the problem that creates more precariousness and inequality. Young people and immigrants are the ones who suffer most from the situation of exorbitant rental prices: most of them, of course, cannot even consider buying. In the midst of this panorama that has been going on for years, the racial factor is still an added and unjustified punishment. Prejudices continue to operate, so that a person with a racially connoted appearance, accent or name has a much more complicated access to housing. All doors are easily and unceremoniously closed to them. It doesn't matter if they can prove a minimum income and family stability: landlords or real estate agents get rid of them, preferring tenants who respond to clichés in which appearance is definitive.

The result is that there is a large group of people who are seriously harmed, whatever their condition and social reality. We are not talking about specific or exceptional cases, but about an evidence that repeats itself and about practices that are shameful. Unfortunately, many of those affected have already normalised it and do what they can. Or not. A minority report it. Real estate racism is, therefore, a painful reality that is widespread in Catalonia. The fact that we are a very diverse society, in which people of all origins and languages coexist, does not seem to have translated into real tolerance and welcome. In practice, and especially when money and neighbourliness are involved, there is still a regrettable and widespread tendency to reject difference.

If this in itself is already serious, it is even more lacerating in these times of pandemic crisis. When things are going badly, when no one escapes economic and health uncertainty, fears, however unfounded they may be, are accentuated, and with them the fragilities of the most vulnerable. The housing problem goes back a long way. The two chained crises (the one that began in 2008 and the current one due to covid-19) have only accentuated it. The decrease in tourist pressure has not managed to really bring down rental prices. Yes, the regulation of rental prices in the areas with more pressure has begun to slightly alleviate the situation, but the overall problem is far from being solved. Right now, for example, Barcelona is the second city in Spain with the highest rental prices for shared flats, a precarious solution for many young or vulnerable people who cannot afford their own home, and which in some cases serves to cheat discrimination by making the contract go in the name of someone who cannot be racialised. Classism or aporophobia (hatred of the poor) are also common reasons for real estate discrimination. There is still a lot of work to be done to raise awareness, to report and to sanction in order to break with these practices.