Families' Right to Housing Discussed at UIC

The UIC's Institute of Advanced Family Studies (IESF) and the Joaquim Molins Figueras Foundation organized a seminar on families' right to housing on Tuesday, 22 October 2013. The seminar was the official act that inaugurated the Family Policies Lecture Hall, which was created in May 2013 with the support of the Joaquim Molins Figueras Foundation.

The IESF was created at the UIC in 2004 to become the first university institute in Spain to include the promotion of study and research into family policies among its objectives. Dr. Montserrat Gas, the Director of the IESF, opened the event by saying, "The university is the perfect forum in which to study these issues, since it brings social stakeholders, researchers, politicians, business people and social media professionals into contact with each other".

The event was attended by Joaquim Molins, the patron and founder of the Foundation, who said he was delighted to work with the UIC in the area of family policies and pointed out, “Few studies exist on the role played by the family in society”. One of the objectives of the Joaquim Molins Figueras Foundation is to broaden understanding of the situation of the family today by submitting proposals to those in positions of public responsibility and to the different social stakeholders.

Following the opening statements, Irma Rognoni, a Barcelona City Councillor, outlined all the housing initiatives currently being developed by Mayor Xavier Trías’s team and assured the conference that their purpose was clear: “Investing in people is investing in the future, and housing is a part of that”. Rognoni, who holds a Master’s Degree in Mediation, is particularly sensitive to the problem of forced evictions as a result of her work in the Nou Barris district.

The seminar centred on a roundtable discussion moderated by Consuelo León, the Director of the ISEF’s Observatory on Family Policies, to discuss the policies which must be carried out in order to guarantee families access to housing. Contributing to the discussion were Dr. Isabelle Anguelovski, a lecturer on the Master’s in International Cooperation and Sustainable Emergency Architecture programme at the UIC’s ESARQ School of Architecture; Mr. Antonio Ramón Recio Córdova, a magistrate in the First Section of the Barcelona Provincial Court; and Joana Suñer, an official in the Housing Advice Service of the Caritas Charitable Organization of Barcelona. Dr. Anguelovski gave an analysis from an architectural standpoint of the kind of policies which would lead to guaranteed access to housing, not just in the United States but throughout the European Union, and was emphatic on the subject of social housing. Recio Córdova provided a historical and legal overview of the causes of the present situation. Suñer spoke about housing advice as a backup to housing policies and legal reforms.

The debate also examined the European Court of Justice’s recent judgement, which signifies an important change in the handling of mortgage foreclosures in Spain. The participants discussed the new scenario, which allows a judge to freeze a mortgage foreclosure or eviction process as a cautionary measure. This may happen if the inclusion of an unfair clause in the mortgage has been reported. Under the new judgement, the authority to decide whether or not an eviction is unfair is handed over to the national courts.

The Caritas Charitable Organization of Barcelona brought to the discussion the social drama of the forced evictions, and presented statistics showing that 71% of the financial aid provided by the organization has gone to pay expenses related to claimants’ housing situations.

The discussion ended with a debate in which agreement was reached on the need to seek out practical ways of solving the problem of providing families with access to adequate housing. The next seminar in the Family Policies Lecture Hall is aimed at technical experts in social policy and NGOs, and will include the participation of Dolors Gordi, the Secretary for Families in the government of Catalonia. The seminar is scheduled for Monday, 21 November 2013.