Stopping Evictions in Spain


As Spain’s
unemployment rate 
climbs above 25 percent and its social welfare system is
dismantled, around 500
eviction orders are issued each day. Banks are repossessing the homes of those
who can’t meet their mortgage payments. This trend is sadly not new. There were
more than 325,000 foreclosures between 2007 and 2011, according to Spain’s
justice department. A fellow Polis blogger explored 
who is to blame
for evictions in Spain
early last year. In this post, I look at how
advocacy and grassroots groups, including Platform of People Affected by
Mortgages (PAH) and the housing groups from 
15M assemblies, are working to stop and transform this

PAH was founded in February 2009 to defend the
constitutional right to housing, stop evictions, enact social rent, and reform
the Mortgage Act. The latter, as it exists now, gives banks the right to claim
full payment of debt even after evicting the property’s residents, including the
difference in value and all legal costs. For example, María Carrión 
reported on a family that paid
$98,000 of a $323,000 mortgage, but owed the bank an additional $405,000 even
after it had taken back their apartment. The Act results in hundreds of
thousands of families on the streets with a debt to repay for the rest of their

Through PAH’s Stop
Evictions Campaign, members occupy and block entrance to properties where
eviction orders are being delivered. The first successfully paralyzed eviction
took place in November 2010 in Tarragona, Catalonia, where a judicial
commission — made up of two government officials and a bank representative
accompanied by Catalan police — decided not to force residents to abandon their
house. This tactic has been used hundreds of times over by PAH and the groups
who emerged during the 15M movement in May 2011. PAH has stopped hundreds of
evictions, but in some cases the police succeed in prying people away one by
one and then evicting the families inside.

PAH and 15M have occupied foreclosed buildings
to provide shelter for evicted families with nowhere to go. People are now
doing the same on their own, as seen in
Valdemoro, Madrid, where 50 families
are occupying an empty chalet development
. This is occurring across the country. In several
cases, the interventions of PAH and local 15M housing groups have forced local
governments to back down on evictions and provide emergency housing, as is the
case in 
Getafe, Madrid.

Also in Madrid, PAH
activists have carried out a variety of protests at Bankia — the
nationalized and bailed out to a tune of $24 billion
— to demand that they negotiate with families
threatened with eviction. Bankia is responsible for 80 percent of home
repossessions in the autonomous community of Madrid.

After years of pressure
from PAH to reform the Mortgage Act, 
a spate of
late last year by people threatened with
eviction finally pushed the government to take action. Yet the approved Royal
Decree did not include any changes to the Mortgage Law, only allowing
households under “extreme hardship” to have their eviction orders frozen
for the next two years. To qualify they must have an annual income below
$25,000 and pay more than half of this in mortgage payments. They must also
meet at least one of a list of other strict conditions, such as owning no other
property, being a single-parent household with at least two children, having a
large family, having a family member with disabilities or being a victim of
domestic violence. And coverage for qualifying households only begins for those
facing foreclosure after the Royal Decree was adopted on Nov. 16, 2012, meaning
that the 400,000 households that have already experienced foreclosure or
eviction are left out.

PAH, 15M housing
groups and other sympathizers are outraged, arguingthat
this token decree excludes the majority of people affected by foreclosures and
evictions. They presented a Popular Legislative Initiative with over 700,000
signatures calling for regulation of foreclosure payments, social rent and a
moratorium on foreclosure procedures. Public defenders across Spain were also
up in arms last December, 
demanding that the government restructure mortgage debt, create
a social housing fund and enact social rent. Today a communique from a European
commission in Brussels 
outlined reasons why the reform will have limited impact.

Last week, the
Association of Spanish Banks and the Spanish Confederation of Credit Unions
ceded 6,000 dwellings to create a 
social housing
fund for the evicted
. Considering that 20 percent of Spain’s total
housing, amounting to 5.6 million dwellings, is empty because it hasn’t been
sold or was seized by banks, surely more can be done. The efforts of PAH, with
chapters in 
over 80 cities across Spain, along with 15M housing groups and other
activists, are critical in the fight to stop evictions and ensure access to affordable

Picture’s source: 20minutos

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article, click here.