250 people protest The District real estate investors trade show awards ceremony in Barcelona

Police prevent demonstrators against "vulture funds" from entering venue

A woman speaking to protesters against The District real estate investors event in Barcelona
A woman speaking to protesters against The District real estate investors event in Barcelona / Aina Martí

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

October 21, 2022 09:48 AM

October 21, 2022 10:15 AM

Some 250 housing rights activists gathered in Barcelona's Poble-sec neighborhood on Thursday night to protest the The District real estate investors trade show awards ceremony that was taking place at Hotel Intercontinental.

Unlike the first day of the event, when demonstrators entered the Fira Montjuïc venue and were forcibly removed by Mossos d'Esquadra police, they were unable to breach the officers guarding the perimeter as part of their protest against "vulture funds" they consider to be responsible for the lack of affordable housing in the Catalan capital.

Albert Planas, the CEO of NEBEXT, the company behind the event, denied the existence of these following the first demonstration on Wednesday. "Nowadays, vulture funds do not exist," he said, citing "more rigorous controls," and went as far as claiming "investment funds can and are helping increase the amount of social housing."

Blackstone and CaixaBank's Servihabitat were among Thursday night's nominees for a social impact award, groups the housing rights activists describe as "the main property owners in Catalonia who are responsible for a large part of evictions."

Activists denounce housing crisis

Dozens of social rights groups, including the Sindicat de Llogateres tenants union, PAH anti-eviction platform, Elite Taxi or even far-left pro-independence CUP party, called for the protests on both Wednesday and Thursday and blasted authorities for not canceling the event and for using public resources to protect an event they say hurts the public. 

manifesto signed by them explained their position: "We are living through moments of suffocation for the majority of the population due to speculation in the prices of energy, food, and housing, with soaring inflation that is reaching uncontrollable figures."

It goes on to condemn "millionaire profits of large financial institutions and investment funds, while thousands of families do not have minimum sustenance," before accusing administrations of "failing to fulfill their duty to implement the most elementary social rights."

The group wants to see The District event canceled, as they view it as a forum for people to "continue developing strategies to exploit the territory and resources, speculate and deepen the processes of impoverishment and social exclusion."

There are more evictions in Barcelona than in any other city in Spain, something housing rights activists blame on many of the companies that are present in The District. In the second quarter of 2022, there were more than 26 evictions per day in Catalonia.