Renters unions against the neo-liberal city: can new renters' organisations in Barcelona and London build mass movements?

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Geography


The project seeks to understand the rise of renters unions
and their capacity to build mass housing movement
organisations in opposition to the neoliberal re-shaping of
cities. It takes as case studies Sindicat de Llogaters in
Barcelona, and London Renters Union, and asks why this
novel form of organising has emerged in recent years. It
uses the lens of a comparative analytical focus on the
political narratives that the two renters unions deploy to ask
why claiming a right to the city appears to be more advanced
in Barcelona than London.
Housing crises and the growth of renters unions
Both London and Barcelona have suffered housing crises in
recent years, marked by increased costs and insecurity in
the private rented sector (Kemp, 2015; GLA, 2015). The
housing crisis in London has resulted in a surge of housing
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campaign groups (Walker and Jeraj, 2016; Watt and Minton,
2016; Edwards, 2016; Watt, 2018). Despite evident failures of
the prevalent 'free market' model, as demonstrated by the
2008 financial crisis, neo-liberal narratives still dominate
public discourse. Renters unions in London and Barcelona
exemplify a new movement of private renters organising
across Europe, to which little attention has so far been paid
in the literature. Despite the often unsympathetic policy
environment renters unions have begun to offer narratives of
major changes to the property regime, quickly attracting a
membership base.
In the United Kingdom however renters unions have
remained small, composed of relatively few dedicated
activists. London Renters Union (,
2018) is the fastest-growing housing movement organisation
in London but at 750 members (at November 2018) is still
far from being a mass movement. Barcelona meanwhile has
more developed housing movement organisations
(Eizaguirre, Pradel-Miquel and Garcia, 2017). The municipal
government, which includes participants in the broad-based
Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), now aims to
protect renters from market forces, still promoted by the
Madrid government. The founders of the PAH have now been
instrumental in founding a new renters union, Sindicat de
Llogaters (Palomera, 2018).
These two new renters unions in differing political contexts
will be examined from an insider's perspective, generating
reflexive data on these new urban social movements and
their interactions with the cities they inhabit.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2322813 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2019 31/12/2023 Jacob Stringer