The initiative draws from the tenant unions already in existence in other European countries. In Barcelona, the initiative is backed by the Federation of Neighbourhood Associations (FAVB) and by affordable housing advocacy groups. In Sweden, for instance, the 580,000-member tenants’ union negotiates rental prices with private landlords and with government agencies in the case of public housing.
The city’s housing commissioner, Josep Maria Montaner, confirms that the city council shares the group’s demands: a reference price index, longer leases and policies to encourage public housing rentals.
The group, called Sindicato de Inquilinos (Tenants Union), says it will defend rent control and longer leases, which are currently up to three years long. The union will report situations that violate the right to housing and offer its members technical and legal advice. Membership fees are €30, and a crowdfunding effort will attempt to raise €20,000 to pay legal fees.
Irene Sabater and Lourdes García, also with the Sindicato, said that the current rental bubble is affecting all areas of Barcelona, where it is now impossible to find an apartment for under €800 a month, even though a third of the population earns less than that amount. The growing popularity of short-term tourist apartments has also been blamed for the rising rents in the city centre.
Sabater said that three injustices are being committed: “prices, with growing pressure that pushes local residents out; legislation, which favours short-term leases; and huge rent hikes when contracts end or when entire buildings are sold to investors who kick out residents."