The Anti-Eviction Unit of the Barcelona City Council has sent a total of 449 requests to large homeowners since 2019, considering that they were not complying with current Catalan legislation for not offering social rent before carrying out an eviction. Of all these communications, 66% (that is, about 296) correspond to financial entities and investment funds, according to a recent report from that unit to which elDiario.es has had access.
Barcelona warns of a “social outbreak” after counting more than 400 eviction orders since September 14
It was this unit that warned at the beginning of November of a possible “social outbreak” in Barcelona having evidence of 443 eviction orders in just a month and a half. These data were sent by the municipal government of Ada Colau to the Ministry of Development to demand a moratorium on launches for all vulnerable families (a proposal that United Podemos, ERC and Bildu have now presented in the form of an amendment to the Budgets).
In a new report, the Anti-Eviction Unit expands the details of those 443 cases detected between September 13 and October 23 – 90% ended up being paralyzed – and adds a retrospective on all the requests sent to large landowners for not comply with the legislation, specifically when offering a social rental before starting an eviction process. This step is mandatory in Catalonia for all large owners (companies or individuals who have more than 15 homes) since the Constitutional Court endorsed in 2019 the law 24/2015 on housing emergency and against energy poverty.
The report of the council highlights the list of financial entities and investment funds that have received these nearly 300 requests. At the head is Blackstone or one of its subsidiaries (Budmac, Gescat or Anticipa), to which the council attributes 26% of the total. This would be 77. The rest, in order of letters sent, are Sareb (15.3%), BBVA (14.9%), the Cerberus fund (13.8%), Banc Sabadell (9.7%), Bankia (7%), Building Center (6%) and Altamira del Banco Santander (5.2%).
The Anti-Eviction Unit acts whenever it has indications that this point of the legislation is being breached, often alerted by movements in defense of the right to housing or by those affected themselves. “What we are seeing is that there is a significant breach on the part of large landowners, a situation similar to when Law 24/2015 was approved, when there were difficulties and resistance,” explains Lucía Martín, Councilor for Housing of the consistory.
The entities, consulted by elDiario.es, generally reject having breached the regulations and assure that in the event of an eviction of a vulnerable family they always usually offer an alternative. Blackstone sources, who lower the requirements to 60 in their case, assure that “in many cases” when they receive the letter from the council, the social rental offer “is already made to the family and the contract is even signed.” Sometimes, they add, the tenants do not meet the necessary requirements, do not send the requested information or are often “in the process of receiving and evaluating” that documentation.
Entities such as Sareb or Banc Sabadell also assure that they “always” raise a social rent in light of these casuistry. “In all cases we offer a social rental in accordance with the law”, sources from Sabadell abound. They also add that it is “very likely” that some of these letters from the council correspond to floors of portfolios that the bank has sold in the last two years, with which they usually send the information to the new holders.
Some requirements end with a “positive” response and the social rent “is just being formalized”, is included in the report. This has been the case in 53 cases that have resulted in contracts and that have affected 201 people, 79 of them minors. At the other extreme are the disciplinary proceedings, which the City Council opens when it understands that the property persists in non-compliance. To date, there are 17 processed that add up to a total of 564,680 euros. In the rest, these are cases in which they are negotiating in some way.
Since the end of 2019, in addition, a decree has been in force in Catalonia that obliges those large owners to offer a social rental alternative even when they are occupying an apartment, provided that they can prove that they have been in business for more than six months. However, this and other successive modifications have not prevented evictions from taking place because the judges understand that they must continue processing those complaints that reach them, regardless of whether what the owners offer to the tenants complies with the regulations.
40% of evictions, stopped at the door
The Anti-Eviction Unit, created in 2015 by Colau to prosecute irregularities in housing – from empty flats to property harassment – has on its balance sheet having managed to stop 90% of the launches of which it has had evidence . This was the case with those 443 evictions detected between mid-September and October.
The report details that 60% of the paralyzed evictions were achieved “thanks to municipal mediation before launch day.” “It is a matter of the utmost importance, since the families in this case do not face the extreme anguish that eviction entails with the judicial presence and the police at the door,” continue those responsible for the unit. The other 40% stood at the door, often alongside the decisive presence of social movements.
Regarding the profile of the families, of these 443 cases (affecting 1,211 people), the vast majority live in situations of extreme poverty. 80%, according to their data, subsist on less than 800 euros per month, “making it totally unfeasible to pay a rent,” they conclude.
In the middle of the second wave of infections, Councilor Martín demands once again the central Executive to approve a moratorium to avoid all kinds of evictions. “We have met with very evident resistance from a part of the Government. The minister [de Fomento] that said there were no evictions and of course there were … Or the Economy. We have come across it many times and it continues to happen, “he denounces.