Society 29/03/2021

30% of Barcelonians would leave the city if they could

The satisfaction of living in the capital gets a 7.3 out of 10 in the survey of municipal services, the lowest mark since records began

3 min
A souvenir shop with the shutters down on Marina Street in Barcelona.

BarcelonaThe Barcelonians are no longer as proud of their city as they were, to the point that now 30% say that if they could they would leave to live outside, twice as many as would have done so just four years ago. The city council attributes this disenchantment, reflected in the municipal services survey conducted by the council, to the impact of the pandemic and the desire to seek less dense spaces to live. The reality is that the people of Barcelona continue to rate the satisfaction of living in the city quite high but with a mark 0.4 lower than in 2019 and the lowest mark since records began in 1996. The answers confirm the trend that the Municipal Data Office pointed to a month ago, when it detected, with the data of the census, that about 13,000 Barcelonans had left, mostly to live in second homes. This affected, above all, the more affluent areas of the city.

The survey uses over 6,000 face-to-face interviews, making it the largest of those conducted by the City Council. For mayor Colau's team, what the survey reflects is a trend that covid has brought to light in other major European and North American cities: the desire to flee the urban fabric to find places to live with better conditions during the months of restrictions and taking advantage of the possibility of working from home. For this reason, they have enclosed a report that collects data such as the study published in the New York Times which details that nearly 700,000 people left London last year, mostly foreign-born workers (a figure that may also be affected by Brexit) or that New York lost more than 110,000 residents between February and July 2020. What the survey shows, they argue, is not unique to the Catalan capital.

Councillor Jordi Martí insists that many of the people who leave the city "do not leave Barcelona, but take it with them", because the new working conditions allow them to maintain urban life a little away from the city. It remains to be seen whether this is a trend that will continue over time or whether it leaves with the covid. "There have been as many thinkers who have announced the death of the city as there have been times when the city has revived," he warns, convinced that the phenomenon will be temporary and that urban life is not being rejected now.

Worse grade for the City Council

The survey, however, also shows a greater dissatisfaction of the Barcelonians with the management of their City Council: now they give it with a 5.7 out of 10, while in the 2019 edition the mark was 6.2. It also reflects a greater pessimism regarding the prospects for improvement both in the city, Catalonia and the State. 59% of respondents believe that Barcelona has worsened in the last year - the highest figure, by far, since records began - and 32.9% are convinced that things will get even worse. This pessimism is repeated in the case of Catalonia (31.7% believe it will get worse) and Spain (38.2%). This diagnosis does not worry the municipal government. According to Martí, it was foreseeable, and even worse scores were expected: "We live a very hard situation, it is logical that the assessment falls at a time when the city has to be in lockdown".

The dominance of insecurity

What covid has not managed to alter, on the other hand, is the ranking of the main problems. Neither the downward trend in crime nor the health crisis and its devastating economic effects have changed the automatic response of the people of Barcelona when asked about the city's most serious problem: insecurity is still at the top of their ranking. It reached there in the summer of 2019, in the midst of the crisis of the drug dealers' flats in Raval and thefts in the city as a whole, and since then has remained unchanged every time the City Council has asked citizens. The deputy mayor for Security, Albert Batlle, had already warned that the survey would again point to the insecurity as a citizen concern, although there has been 57% less theft and 35% less violent robbery. Perceptions, says the consistory, are harder to change than the facts themselves.

Insecurity is the main problem for 17.7% of Barcelonians - even six tenths more than in 2019 - followed by access to housing (7.6%) and covid (7.5%), which logically becomes a concern for the first time. When citizens are asked what they would ask the City Council to do, the main answer is also to improve security, followed by cleanliness and access to housing. By areas, those that are most critical with security live in Ciutat Vella and specifically Raval, as well as the northern part of Nou Barris. In Ciutat Vella is where the neighbours respond with a forcefulness well above the average that the situation in their neighbourhood has worsened in the last year: 53.8% do so, although the average in Barcelona is 33.3%. In wealtheir neighbourhoods residents are more critical of traffic problems.

If we look at the ratings for the set of municipal services, as is now tradition, they all pass except one: space to park, which gets a four, and is even worse if you ask people who use it (3.6). Leading the ranking are firefighters (8.2) and libraries (7.7), which, however, have received a slightly worse mark in the context of the pandemic.