Politics, the scene and power dynamics of the system, changed in Spain after the 15M mobilisations in 2011. The representative political system was put into question and after the protests a diverse range of collectives organised in different ways to build alternatives. One of the most famous manifestations was the municipalist movement that gathered groups, activists and ordinary people in many cities across Spain and ran for elections in 2015. They won in dozens of localities and governed with the aim of implementing urgent progressive policies and towards changing the way politics is done. In the case of Barcelona, the municipalist platform Barcelona en Comú was one of the few in Spain that managed, with considerable efforts, to keep the mayorship in 2019; reminding of the reality that systemic transformation is a long process along which the biggest challenge is maintaining the faith and support of the critical mass.
A driving concern for Barcelona en Comú has been finding innovative, efficient ways to re-articulate public institutions, their priorities and their discourses with the demands of social movements. One of the key domains where intensive coordination has been taking place is housing, which is no surprise as revealed by the fact that in 2018 it was named as the most serious problem for citizens, according to different surveys1. The housing crisis in Barcelona has several components, but the main two are: First, the city is one of the most popular touristic destinations in Europe, which heightens demands on lodging and forms one of the greatest threats for locals when it comes to access to housing and the right to non-commercialised neighbourhood life. Second, housing policies in Spain are far behind the rest of Europe in many senses. The conditions of homes are usually bad (especially in the old part of the city, where there has been a lack of renovation); prices are considerably high in comparison to income and are continuously inflating; the proportion of social housing is merely 1,6%2; and among other problems, laws feature little protection for tenants. This is coupled with a governmental resistance to regulate rent prices.
The CMMM Barcelona City Team in collaboration with the DESC Observatory will work together with some of the local housing organisations and movements, in order to examine how they have been employing critical mapping as a tool to document, mobilise and advocate for change in this domain. In particular, the team will look at how the specific circumstances of the city – where there is what can be called „a friendly government“ – are shaping the housing discourses and strategies of the movements, and will investigate to what extent this collaboration has been successful. Along the course, the team will examine the structure of the housing stock (who are the main landlords? Are they big companies or funds or individual owners?), because this is one of the areas where the city council has been collaborating with housing collectives, legal experts, journalists, and other groups in order to develop a joint strategy to address the problem of speculation in the housing market. We will explore what was (if any) the role of mapping in coordination and communication between the organisations, city council and the wider public. The aim is to create a better understanding on whether this tool has played a role in the progress made by the struggles of housing collectives; whether it has helped actors to coordinate better between each other; whether it has had a positive internal effect in the movements, and; whether it has contributed to keeping or creating new support for the contemporary, non-traditional spheres of politics in Barcelona. We will also be working closely with the Renters’ Union (Sindicat de Llogaters) to support their use of mappings.
Image credit: Barcelona City Council
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