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An innovative programme which works to prevent evictions of vulnerable people in Barcelona has won a prestigious Bronze World Habitat Award.

The Intervention and Mediation Service for Situations of Housing Loss and/or Occupation (SIPHO) intervenes in 90% of evictions in the city, acting as a mediator between multiple parties and co-ordinating access to subsidies and referrals to other support services.

As a result, it has helped 31,000 people, with demand for the service growing significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2021, 77% of the cases SIPHO worked with involved people living under the poverty line and 33% involved children. The service successfully prevents nine out of 10 evictions.

The service is entirely funded by the municipal government. It acts as a mediator between courts, property owners and tenants, working together to find a solution when the latter are facing evictions. The priority is to keep people in their homes, but if this isn’t possible, SIPHO looks for alternative accommodation.

Maria*, 41, was helped by SIPHO after she lost her home when her husband lost his job due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She said: “I was very nervous as I was in big financial trouble. When I received the notice of judgment for non-payment of rent, I sank. A few days later I requested an appointment with the Municipal Housing Office, steeling myself and explained that I couldn’t pay the rent.

“SIPHO helped me in various aspects, supporting me in every step and being there when I needed them most. I wasn’t alone and they mediated so I can get more time to sign the contract for my new home. Now I have a better quality of life.”

SIPHO intervenes in urgent cases where an eviction order has been executed and residents are at risk of losing their home within 15 days. If the eviction is carried out, SIPHO coordinates the relocation of the household, however if eviction is avoided, a plan is put into place to help the resident sustain their tenancy going forward.

The World Habitat Awards, which are organised by World Habitat in partnership with UN-Habitat, are the world’s leading housing awards, which recognises and highlights innovative, outstanding and revolutionary housing ideas, projects and programmes from across the world.

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “It is a terrifying prospect to be told you must leave the place you call home, however SIPHO offers the support people need when going through this tough time.

“The most important, but often least recognised strategy for ending homelessness is to prevent it happening in the first place. The Municipality of Barcelona’s SIPHO project knots together a range of vital services to create a wraparound service to keep vulnerable residents in their homes.”

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