Conscious rentals for refugees: from “not possible” to the decision to take part

When in June 2018, Nerea Melgosa, councilor of Vitoria-Gasteiz, asked me to apply the new process of conscious rentals for refugee families, my answer was “not possible”. The cultural and linguistic differences seemed to me to difficult to overcome. But the real walls are in our heads …

Empathizing with Nerea’s concern led me to try it “like a guinea pig”, although voices came from my surroundings telling me that it was very risky. Today I am very grateful to Nerea for her visionary proposal.
The meetings began. The first with ACCEM and Estibaliz Pereda, then Director of Coexistence and Diversity. Also in this process, I have met again with Miren Leiceaga, a collaborative lawyer like me, and with whom sharing visions and training is being key. We are both “rare” lawyers, (according to the DRAE, rare in our species) and we speak “the same language”.

For all this, this pilot experience has become an extraordinary opportunity for learning and personal growth that we share in the Congress on Conscious Contracts, organized by the ADCE (Palacio de Villa Suso de Vitoria- Gasteiz, November 2018). I encourage you to see it in this link: Real Experiences Conscious Refugee Contracts.
You can also listen to the interview on the SER network with the participation of the father of the refugee family with whom we made the first contract.
At the moment, we are preparing the rental contract for a family from Afghanistan in comic format. By this simple and graphic means it is possible to overcome the difficulty of both the language and the technical language.

Why are conscious contracts for the rental of refugee housing necessary?
Because migrants in general and refugees in particular have more difficulties when it comes to finding a flat for rent, while, paradoxically, there are more than 2000 empty flats in the Basque Country.

Why are there so many empty houses?
From the Arteale Foundation we understand that the legal system does not give them confidence and security to cover their needs.

Why aren’t there more owners who decide to collaborate?
I honestly and modestly believe that is due to ignorance. In these few months the Arteale Foundation has found three owners willing to also participate in the pilot project. They are people with sensitivity and social concerns. One of them has donated his apartment to the Foundation.
We firmly believe that there are many more people who are willing to join these types of initiatives, when they know about them. Even from their own selfishness, since with a population as old as that of Euskadi, it will be the migrants who will help us the most. I think it is one of the most difficult challenges that our society has and at the same time an extraordinary opportunity to generate coexistence, which we need so much. I recommend reading the book “The Life of 100 years.”

For what?
To make the decision to rent with confidence. This new process of making contracts helps the parties get to know each other, understand what is important to them, what are the values that move them and what are their red lines or their most pressing needs. The process helps the parties become aware of whether or not they are aligned for the agreement they want to reach. It serves to generate confidence, both to make the decision to rent and to discard it.

When you meet people, even the most rigid walls of our mind are relaxed, if that trust has been generated. It comes to mind how in the apartment that I rented from the first family, if the children had not transmitted the trust they transmitted to me (I refer to the anecdote told on the radio) I would not have gone ahead with the rental. On many occasions, families with children were directly discarded, from the fear that the kids would destroy the newly renovated apartment.

How are we doing it?
With great enthusiasm, desire and, for the moment, without resources outside ACCEM and ARTEALE, except for the support that the Caixa Foundation has given us, thanks to which 10 people have been able to train. We have agreed to two agreements between ADCE and ACCEM; ADCE and Red Cross. We hope to be able to count on the support of the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council and the collaboration of other public administrations. If the subject has aroused your curiosity, I invite you to explore our web pages (collaborative law and arteale). We are also counting on volunteers. Do you dare to participate?

By María José Anitua, president of the Arteale Foundation and the Basque Country Association for Collaborative Law.

* The image is a drawing of one of the little ones in the house.