Ciutat Vella encloses two worlds in one: on the one hand, the Rambla, the beach, the Lyceum and wide open leisure activities. And, on the other hand, 105,000 inhabitants, with an average income 15% lower than that of the rest of Barcelona and with 70% of its population in rented apartments, double that of the rest of the city. The district suffers from an alarmingly small difference between the salaries of its neighbors and the rental prices, that is, it is the most stressed [en la terminología del ministerio de Fomento] of Spain in the proportion between both figures. And that tension is noticeable: the first week of March had around 50 scheduled evictions; the second, 30.
In a real estate agency on Joaquim Costa Street, one of the arteries that best shows the consolidation of the population of immigrant origin in the district (49% of the total, almost a hundred different nationalities with the Pakistani community as predominant), highlights the announcement of an apartment for sale. They ask for more than 700,000 euros for less than 100 square meters. The price is explained because it has a license for a “tourist apartment for six people” and could even go up to ten o’clock. Before the pandemic, this type of offer kept growing. Even today, with tourists missing, there are more than 300 accommodation ads in the district on Airbnb alone and a study by academics from the Barcelona Institute of Economics pointed out in 2019 that this growing supply was behind a 7% increase in prices rent, other factors isolated.
The attractiveness of the district has not only attracted tourism but also a large number of European citizens who have settled in the area temporarily and who live with another population of foreign origin with low incomes. Jordi Rabassa, district councilor, explains that this floating population, in some neighborhoods, such as Gòtic, can cause 30% of the inhabitants to be renewed every year. “In Ciutat Vella there is a great concentration of large holders,” says Rabassa pointing to another trend. “The percentage is much higher than in the rest of the city. The tourist pull has turned into speculation ”. The City Council has acquired in recent years about 150 homes in the area, some to prevent funds from being made with entire estates.
Iñaki Unsain, an expert in the real estate business, explains another reason that influences the prices of Ciutat Vella: “Its small size, which causes you to have to pass more cost to the price per square meter.” According to municipal statistics, 53% of the homes are less than 60 meters high, while in the rest of the city that percentage stands at 30%. The main cause is the Barceloneta neighborhood, popular for being not at all from the beach and also for its old housing blocks of just 30 meters. You do not pay less than 700 euros for one of them. On the Idealista portal, the cheapest (infra) house in the district is 15 meters long and costs 400 euros.
“Non-payment of rents, occupations and people whose contract ends, but do not leave the apartment because they have nowhere to go are the order of the day,” explains Martí Cussó, from the Casco Antiguo Housing Union, who highlights the precariousness in which lives the other world of Ciutat Vella, “a neighborhood at the entrance of the city”: without papers and employees of the service sector who live daily.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.