Barcelona City Hall has announced disciplinary proceedings against a property portal and real estate agency for targeting locals in a rental listing earlier this year.
The rental listing, published in June for about ten days by local estate agent The New House at the property portal Idealista.com, for a flat of 75m2 in Poblesec district with a rent of 1,200€/month, made clear it was targeting “Students, Spanish, with indefinite contracts.”
The Poblesec district is popular with economic migrants from North Africa and the Far East, though it is also increasingly trendy and popular with investors and second-home buyers from the West. So it’s an area with strong foreign demand.
Someone reportedly complained about the advert to the City’s anti-discrimination department, presumably at the time, but it’s not clear why nothing was done about it until now, six months later.
Barcelona’s leftie mayoress Ada Colau, leader of the hard-left Barcelona En Comú party (Barcelona in Common), who used to run a group of housing activists on the radical fringe, has taken to Twitter to accuse the property portal Idealista of racism for allowing the listing to be published, and announced a disciplinary procedure that could lead to a fine of as much as €90,001 for both companies.
“For the first time we are fining a property portal for discriminatory practises.” Tweets Colau. “Speculation and Racism are NOT welcome in Bcn”.
Multamos por primera vez a un portal inmobiliario por prácticas discriminatorias. En BCN la especulación y racismo NO son bienvenidos.
La vivienda es un derecho para todas las personas sin distinción. Utilizaremos todas las herramientas para defenderlo.https://t.co/jNpjWgIBCE
— Ada Colau (@AdaColau) December 21, 2019
Idealist have responded by vigorously denying any form of discrimination in their practises, pointing out the systems they have in place to filter out discrimination of all sorts. They accuse Colau of trying to distract attention from her failure to resolve Barcelona’s housing crisis, with rental prices up more than 35% since she took office, by looking for “scapegoats and smoke screens,” in the worlds of Jesus Encinar, founder of Idealista.com.
There has been no response from the real estate agency The New House, whose website has gone down.
Despite Colau’s tough talk and aggressive positioning, it’s very unlikely this will lead to anything other than a distraction from the real problems facing Barcelona’s housing market, made worse by Ada Colau’s policies restricting the supply of housing in the city. It’s mainly about virtue signaling, manufactured outrage, and sending a warning to the real estate sector.
It certainly won’t lead to more affordable housing in Barcelona for locals and foreigners alike. And whilst Colau does her usual act of raging against speculators and racists and private property owners, rubbish collection in Barcelona gets noticeably worse on her watch.