Home Institution

Barnard College

Publication Date

Spring 2020

Program Name

Spain: Policy, Law, and Regional Autonomy in Europe


The right to housing is guaranteed by Spain's constitution, the principles of the European Union, and U.N. human rights treaties to which Spain is signatory, yet Spain scarcely provides affordable housing and leaves its citizens struggling with poverty and unable to find a place to live. Unlike much of the rest of Europe, Spain’s social rented sector represents less than 1% of its total housing stock. Through policies that favor homeownership, promote the real estate market, and privatize social housing, Spain has left its citizens reliant on the private market for their fundamental need for housing. Social movements and nonprofit organizations address these failures through a variety of direct actions like preventing evictions and squatting in addition to broader efforts to advocate just housing policy and build community. Observatori DESC, based in Barcelona, works to defend the right to housing through research and political advocacy. This study explores the history of housing policies in Spain, policy and community efforts to address the housing crisis. After examining Observatori DESC’s recent publication advocating for urban commons, democracy, and community in the city, this study found Observatori and the PAH movement advocate for housing policy through a holistic critique of the housing crisis as a result of state policies that increase profits for international corporations while further impoverishing the most vulnerable and look to immediate community action as a way to protect the human right to housing.


Civic and Community Engagement | Demography, Population, and Ecology | European Languages and Societies | Housing Law | Income Distribution | Inequality and Stratification | Social Welfare | Urban, Community and Regional Planning | Urban Studies and Planning


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