Under threat of eviction in Europe's most densely populated city, fear of a new lockdown
Anxiety over further restrictions are compounded by poor housing conditions in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat
With Covid-19 cases rising, anxiety over further restrictions is compounded by poor housing conditions in places like L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Europe's densest city and Catalonia's second most populated.
Directly adjacent to the Catalan capital, L'Hospitalet has a population density of 21,364.8 inhabitants per km2, even higher than Barcelona's 16,149.6 inh./km2. This number is far greater in the neighborhoods of La Florida, Collblanc and La Torrassa, the three that first saw enhanced Covid-19 restrictions put in place.
Evictions are also commonplace, especially in the city's most impoverished areas, with rent prices in L'Hospitalet averaging 14.2 €/m2. Idealista.com data shows prices dropping 2.1% compared to May 2020, when the lockdown was gradually being eased, but still increasing by 7.3% compared to June 2019.
And although evictions came to a halt during most of the state of alarm and could "be suspended for a maximum period of up to 6 months" according to Spanish law, they have already been starting up again.
To understand the situation faced by those at risk of losing their homes during these uncertain times, Catalan News spoke to Marlene Meneses and Júlia Nueno of the Sindicat de Llogateres tenants' union in L'Hospitalet.
Marlene Meneses, a single mother residing in the Can Vidalet area, explains that she has already been evicted and homeless in the past for failing to keep up with rent payments on time – something that could soon happen to her once again with the small apartment she's now occupying, owned by British investment fund Cabot.
"It's depressing because we have a limited amount of space, we don't have a balcony, we don't have a patio... It's very complicated, even more so with my daughter. I had some respite when the law came out putting evictions on hold for 6 months from the start of lockdown, but surprise! That is only true on the news and for fools to believe."
Marlene Meneses · L'Hospitalet de Llobregat resident
It is because of the many cases like Meneses' of people with few resources for whom evictions and homelessness are an ever-present threat that a chapter of the Sindicat de Llogateres tenants' union was founded in L'Hospitalet to begin with.
"The housing issues we have here are similar to those in Barcelona because there's no separation between the two cities, I mean you cross the street and you're in a different city," says Nueno. "We find the same issue here as in Barcelona where rents are rising but here we can also find very poor housing conditions. It's a city with many inhabitants, apartments in very poor conditions as property owners fail to fix them up, and many people living in the same apartment."