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Social Pressure Halts Evictions Temporarily in Spain

This article is part of our special news coverage Europe in Crisis.

Associations and platforms that formed in protest against home evictions have succeeded in getting the Asociación Española de Banca (Spanish Banking Association) to bring evictions to a halt after years of trying. The moratorium was declared for two years, and it will specifically apply to families with small children, people with disabilities and the long term unemployed. On November 12, the group of banks that forms the association announced the suspension of evictions for the next two years “for humanitarian reasons” and in cases of “extreme necessity”.

Although the announcement was celebrated as a victory of citizen action, many criticisms and suspicions have arisen. Ada Colau, spokeswoman for the community organization Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) [es] (Platform for those Affected by Mortgages), assured [es] that the measure will make it so that “people will compete to see who is sicker and who is more unfortunate.” On its webpage, the organization laments [es] that the new law decree is:

 [...] una artimañana basada supuestamente en criterios económicos y de vulnerabilidad, con el único fin de contentar a la banca y excluir por segunda vez a la mayoría de gente que está sufriendo este drama [...]

[...] a trick supposedly based on economic criteria and vulnerability, with the sole purpose of appeasing the bank and excluding yet again the majority of people who are suffering this drama [...]

Currently there are over 500 evictions a day in Spain, and there have been 400,000 from the start of the crisis in 2008. To all of this absurdity we should add that two million homes are empty, and, also, that the bailouts of public money go to the same groups that handle the evictions as well as to citizens that cannot pay an increasing mortgage.  In such an unjust climate that has already led to great social discontent, camping out at bank headquarters, and even various suicides of people who were going to be evicted from their homes [es], the two largest parties PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and PP (Popular Party), have come together to negotiate alternatives.

Acampada de afectados por los desahucios en la Plaza de Celenque. Fotografía de Diana Moreno.

Some of those affected by the evictions camping out in the Plaza de Celenque.  Photo by Diana Moreno.

Action, Protest and Camping Out

However, as some point out, it is evident that political groups did not do this on their own. Rather, it has been the result of great social pressure. Since 2009, associations like stopdesahucios [es] (stopevictions), the 15M or the Platform for those Affected by Mortgages [es], have been stopping evictions and proposing three points to make the “right to adequate housing” effective: the suspension of evictions (with demonstrations of activism and resistance), social rent, and “dación en pago” (which “allows a borrower to legally hand back the keys and in exchange a lender fully discharges the borrower of the debt”). This last measure would be an alternative to the situation of many families who continue to pay for the housing they have been evicted from.

Furthermore, other initiatives such as the massive collection of signatures for reform of the mortgage law in the form of ILP (Popular Legislative Initiative) [es] or the recent camp-out of those affected in the Plaza de Celenque in Madrid have convened people, not simply those who are affected, to throw themselves into an issue that was previously unknown or considered a minor drama. On the other side, parliamentary leftists groups in Congress have presented many proposals against the evictions, in this legislature as well as the previous one, which have all been rejected [es] by PP and PSOE.

Cartel de la Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca

Poster for Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for those Affected by Mortgages).

Banks and Parties, Looked at with Suspicion

Both the announcement of the Spanish Banking Association as well as the recent awareness of politicians can be seen as a success of citizen pressure, as can other good news, like the fact that there are police offers who refuse to take part in the evictions [es]. But the reality is that few are confident about the intentions of the Goverment: PAH does not see the logic in having decisions about the matter made by people who hindered its solution for so long. In a press release, PAH expressed their distrust for two reasons: first, that it was PP and PSOE that provoked the situation (“mercantilizando la vivienda, sobreendeudando a la población, permitiendo que la Banca estafe a la población”) (commercializing housing, putting the people into massive debt, permitting the Bank to swindle people) and, secondly, they did nothing once the drama began, and have prevented the adoption and success of measure to resolve this problem. A person affected by the evictions says:

Nos hubiera gustado que hubiera intervenido un compañero de la plataforma, el defensor del pueblo o alguien de los juzgados en la reunión del PSOE y el PP, para que fuera imparcial.

A supporter of the platform, a public defender or anyone from the courts would have liked us to intervene at the meeting between PSOE and PP, so it could have been fair.

The affected person added that the solution is not a moratorium but rather a law that contains the three points that PAH has emphasized. Another spokesperson showed their distrust  in the executive:

El Gobierno quiere hacer un lavado de imagen junto al PSOE. Queremos que se negocie la solución. Que cambien la ley como pide el pueblo. Hay que despertar conciencias, que el pueblo no se crea esta ley de paso.

The Government wants to whitewash their image as well as PSOE's. We want them to negotiate a solution. To change the law like the people are asking. We need to awaken consciences, that the people did not make this law pass.

Hugo Martínez Abarca, in his column [es], gave his opinion about the real reason for the meeting:

(…)Para los bancos es muy mal negocio asociar su marca concreta con la violación de derechos de los más débiles.

Los desahucios han comenzado a ser un drama también para los bancos, y ahí es donde entran PP y PSOE negando la palabra a los desahuciados y escenificando una honda preocupación por el problema.

(…)For the banks its bad business to associate their particular brand with the violation of rights of the most weak.

The evictions have became a drama for the banks as well, and that's where PP and PSOE enter denying those who have been evicted the floor and staging a deep concern for the issue.

Many opinions concerning the issue have emerged on Twitter as well:

@albertopradilla: Gobierno y PSOE no se “han puesto de acuerdo” para evitar los desahucios. Siempre lo han estado, antes permitiéndolos y ahora disfrazándolos 

@albertopradilla: The Government and PSOE have not “come to an agreement” to avoid evictions.  They always have been, before they were allowing them and now they are disguising them.

 

This article is part of our special news coverage Europe in Crisis.

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