“Racism is not only that they attack you on the street, it is also that they do not want to rent you an apartment because you are Moroccan.” Redouane Mehdi knows what she’s talking about. A real estate agency refused to rent him a flat because of his Moroccan origin. But the case has not gone unpunished. The Barcelona City Council has fined an owner and a real estate agency with 45,000 euros in what is the first sanction for real estate racism in the Catalan capital.
Mehdi’s is not an isolated case. Renting an apartment has become an impossible mission for many migrants. A City Council study showed how rental applicants with an Arabic surname are less likely to get a response from the real estate agency than those with a Spanish name. Discrimination goes so far as to ask a friend of Spanish origin to make the call or change their name.
This is what happened to Mehdi, a young engineer who arrived in Barcelona three years ago. In his search for a place to live, he first had to ask for help from a white friend who was not in trouble. “In my case, I couldn’t even arrange the first visit,” says Mehdi. When he finally thought the discrimination had ended and got a real estate agency to start the procedures to rent him a flat, the discrimination reappeared.
After proving sufficient financial solvency, sending his permanent contract and his last payrolls and thinking that everything was ready to sign, Mehdi obtained silence for an answer. A week passed and Mehdi still didn’t know anything. The silence of the real estate agency lasted a month, until the young man warned that if they did not want to rent the apartment to him, at least destroy his contract and his payroll to protect his personal data. Finally, the company claimed that it had rented the apartment to someone else.
The reality was different. Mehdi, with the help of a friend, was able to prove that the apartment was still empty and available for rent several weeks later. “I was very clear that it was discrimination, but it is very difficult to prove it. In my case we have succeeded because they have made mistakes,” says Mehdi, who has had the support of the Barcelona non-discrimination office and the discipline unit. and anti-bullying of the municipal housing institute.
“I want my case to serve as an example to defend the rights of all and to show that the Moroccan community has the tools to denounce everyday racism,” Mehdi emphasizes. For his part, the Barcelona Citizen Rights Councilor, Marc Serra, highlights that the sanction is not intended to collect money but rather seeks to be a warning for the sector: “Let’s hope the case reaches all real estate operators so that they avoid situations of racism and discrimination in access to housing “.
The sanction has been imposed by virtue of the Catalan housing law of 2007, which prohibits direct discrimination in access to housing based on origin. During the processing of the file, the property, made up of three natural persons, and the real estate company, claimed that their behavior was not discriminatory, but the municipal housing institute rejected them. It is the second time that the Barcelona City Council has sanctioned a case of discrimination, although in the first time the fine was for an advertisement for a flat that was offered only to Spanish people.