Earlier this year, I recovered myself successful the metropolis of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat to the south-west of Barcelona. It lacks the fame and tourer hordes of the Catalan capital, but the 2 places are connected by the aforesaid dire lodging crisis.
Guided by Júlia Nueno, organiser of a grassroots tenants’ movement, I recovered a assemblage of neighbours successful L’Hospitalet who clasp their meetings successful a nationalist parkland yet are managing to instrumentality work for thing the authorities are failing at: putting a extortion implicit people’s heads. Their situation is daunting successful a country of Spain that inactive bears the scars of the 2008 economical situation and remains successful the grip of the Covid pandemic.
L’Hospitalet de Llobregat is the second-largest metropolis successful Catalonia and 1 of the astir densely populated successful Europe. Its proximity to Barcelona has attracted generations of migrants implicit the past six decades. Spaniards from the southbound of the state arrived successful the 1960s, aboriginal giving mode to radical from Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Morocco and galore different countries. Today, galore of the municipality’s 260,000 residents enactment successful low-income jobs and unrecorded successful overcrowded conditions successful small, cheaply constructed flats.
Increasingly, they are joined by young radical priced retired of Barcelona by gentrification, spot speculation and extortionate rent rises. Those fleeing unaffordable rents successful Barcelona unwittingly perpetuate the problem; erstwhile they arrive, rents successful L’Hospitalet besides emergence and locals upwind up incapable to spend homes they whitethorn person rented for a decade.
Since 2019, radical threatened by eviction person been capable to crook to the section section of El Sindicat de Llogateres, a renters’ national founded successful Barcelona and progressive crossed Catalonia.
Renters’ unions are thing caller successful Europe, but what these radical are doing to reset the narration betwixt tenants and landlords is retired of the ordinary. I decided to marque a movie for the Guardian astir Sindicat members successful L’Hospitalet that would besides archer the stories of immoderate of those who struggle, often invisibly, connected the borders of the metropolis wherever I was born.
Victor, successful his 50s, from Ecuador, for example, is stuck successful a three-year lease for his tiny flat. His rent, erstwhile €690 a month, has risen to €805 a period and his landlord is present squeezing him for €900 a period – which equals his wife’s wage successful 2 full-time jobs arsenic a cleaner.
Then determination is Marlene, a azygous parent from Bolivia who came to Spain much than 2 decades ago. Her story, which makes up overmuch of the film, is acold from uncommon. People without a regularised migration presumption often enactment cash-in-hand arsenic carers and find themselves marginalised and abandoned to the mercies of the market.
“We undocumented radical don’t exist,” Marlene says successful the film. “They privation america to instrumentality attraction of their elders, oregon cleanable their houses. But erstwhile we inquire for economical assistance oregon for a extortion to unrecorded under, we are not valued. We conscionable don’t exist.”
The Sindicat helps to halt evictions by staging rallies and publicising cases. It offers radical a applicable toolkit of ineligible assistance and guidance truthful they tin negociate with landlords. Perhaps much fundamentally, it lets radical cognize they are not alone, and shows determination is spot – and comfortableness – successful numbers.
The Sindicat has helped susceptible evicted families done nonstop enactment – by opening up flats owned by either banks oregon vulture funds that person lain bare for astatine slightest 2 years.
Since the 2008 fiscal crash, words similar “eviction” and “squatters” person featured successful the Catalan quality headlines and successful overmuch of the mainstream media communicative Catalonia is referred to arsenic “the portion with the highest fig of squatters”. Quantifying the fig of radical who don’t officially wage rentwith a connection that has antagonistic connotations, related much to an aesthetic and a mode of surviving than a presumption of vulnerability, does small to beforehand nationalist knowing of the standard of the lodging crisis.
There’s a fearfulness and a misconception among homeowners that their houses whitethorn beryllium taken implicit by squatters if they spell distant for the weekend. But the world of who is squatting what couldn’t beryllium further from the media portrayal. Making this documentary and showing what drives idiosyncratic to inhabit a level was the crushed wherefore the assemblage successful L’Hospitalet was blessed to cooperate successful the making of the film.
In Spain, societal lodging represents less than 2% of homes, 1 of the lowest rates successful the OECD and the EU. So who takes work for the lives of those astatine the frontline of poverty? In Catalonia, which is besides the portion wherever astir evictions hap successful Spain, much than 24 families are evicted each day. In L’Hospitalet de Llobregat specifically, evicted families are lone fixed 3 days’ stipend and past near successful the streets. Without an capable payment oregon societal services strategy successful place, families and azygous parents are often near successful limbo.
Women specified arsenic Marlene – and Dalila, different of the film’s protagonists – are forced to transportation an affectional load due to the fact that of the deficiency of lodging security. They person some recovered themselves connected the streets with obscurity to go, caring for a kid who has learned mode excessively young the outgo of living. But these resilient women tin lone deliberation 1 week astatine a time, and the Sindicat has helped them temporarily with a spot to live, adjacent if that means squatting. They cognize that they didn’t neglect successful their lives, but that they were connected the incorrect broadside of a structural problem: unfair entree to affordable housing. They themselves received assistance and enactment from the community, and now, arsenic they enactment agelong hours juggling antithetic precarious jobs, they privation to springiness backmost that assistance by lasting with their neighbours.
Sindicat organises done corporate counselling, meaning that cases are discussed astatine a play assembly which often takes spot successful a nationalist park, wherever anyone who has gone done a akin acquisition tin springiness advice. The national is besides mounting a precedent successful corporate bargaining, by organising neighbours who person the aforesaid landlord, either successful the aforesaid gathering oregon successful antithetic locations, to enactment connected a communal dialog strategy. One of the Sindicat’s highlights truthful acold has been to assistance shape a rent power act which was approved successful Catalonia’s parliament successful September 2020.
Stopping an eviction, opening up an emptyproperty, winning a declaration oregon changing policies are victories that fortify the lodging conflict and possibly clasp lessons for communities successful different European cities struggling against a shortage of affordable homes. Organising successful the streets arsenic they do, Sindicat’s members successful L’Hospitalet de Llobregat are besides gathering extended and invaluable societal knowledge. This cognition makes the assemblage stronger and opens the doorway to respectful and humane lodging solutions that don’t impact marginalising families successful distress. If wellness and acquisition are considered basal rights, wherefore not housing?
Irene Baqué is simply a documentary movie manager who explores issues of identity, sex and societal justice.
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