On Monday 8th July at 8.30am, activists will gather in front of Blackstone offices at 40 Berkley Square in London W1 J5AL for a noise demo to show solidarity with Barcelona’s residents fighting against gentrification.
Blackstone, a New York based multinational private equity firm and the World’s largest alternative investment company*, is the biggest property and hotel owner in Spain. The firm, along other large companies such as Goldman Sachs, Apollo Management and Cerberus, have been buying tens of thousands of residential properties in Spain and then raising rents and evicting thousands of long-term tenants to make space for richer and more “desirable” residents: or just leaving homes to rot empty while their value increases.
Blackstone has spent billions of dollars at Spanish property market, largely taking advantage of plummeting prices resulting from Spain’s 2012 financial crash. By 2015, Blackstone acquired nearly 42,000 properties, most located in Barcelona.
This social cleansing enterprise has been curbed by the Spanish government in March, when it introduced rent caps in new contracts, however, in the 2014-2017 period, rents in both Barcelona and Madrid raised by about 60%. And between 2008 and 2013, more than 327,000 residents of Spain suffered eviction from their homes. At the same time, many properties owned by banks and private equity firms are left empty and become a hot-spot for activities such as heroin dealing, bringing even more misery to the locals.
Most recently, Blackstone is planning to evict ten families occupying the building at 99 Hospital Street (Carrer de l’Hospital in Spanish) in the Barcelona’s El Raval neighborhood. El Raval, a part of centrally located Cuitat Vella district, is a home to both Catalans and a diverse immigrant community, with almost 50% of residents born outside of Spain and coming from places such as Latin America, Pakistan, Philippines and Romania.
Due to its central location, El Raval has become a prime spot for property speculators such as Blackstone, and it increasingly becoming a “hip” area, where, you know, local residents are not too welcome anymore.
The planned eviction of the ten families doesn’t have a date set to it, presumably because Blackstone wanted to avoid resistance: the residents were subjected to several eviction attempts with a set date in the past, each time resisting. This time, it was announced that it can happen anytime between 1st and 15th July. The plans, again, met signifficiant local resistance, with people setting up 24/7 guards to protect the families from being thrown out, organising workshops, talks and concerts during the 15 days of the eviction threat, and showing that not one eviction will be tolerated in the neighborhood.
The housing issues related to property speculation and resulting social cleansing are a World-wide problem, and certainly many London residents are more than familiar with such practices. Tomorrow’s London solidarity with Barcelona demo is one of many actions undertaken to fight it. See you at 40 Berkley Square. Bring something to make noise.
*an alternative investment company trades in assets other than stocks, bonds and cash.
Photo: Carrer de l’Hospital, CC BY-SA 3.0,