The Mortgage Platform has been fighting to stop house evictions in Spain
The Popular Legislative Initiative promoted by the Platform is pending debate in the Spanish Parliament. The Mortgage Platform was founded in Barcelona in 2009. Over recent years, it has worked intensively to prevent and ultimately stop people from being evicted from their own homes. Subprime mortgages, very common during the first decade of this century, were one of the main consequences of the property bubble in Spain and have resulted in more than 400,000 foreclosures in the whole of Spain since 2007. This situation is aggravated due to the economic crisis, which increases social inequality and has placed evictions among the first concerns on the political agenda.
Barcelona (CNA).\u2013 Over recent years, the Mortgage Platform (Plataforma d\u2019Afectats per la Hipoteca (PAH) in Catalan) has worked intensively to prevent and ultimately stop people from being evicted from their own homes. The Mortgage Platform was founded in Barcelona in 2009 and the Popular Legislative Initiative promoted by the Platform is now pending debate in the Spanish Parliament. Subprime mortgages, very common during the first decade of this century, were one of the main consequences of the property bubble in Spain and have resulted in more than 400,000 foreclosures in the whole of Spain since 2007. This situation is aggravated due to the economic crisis, which increases social inequality and has placed evictions among the first concerns on the political agenda.
Subprime mortgages are those loans offered to people with doubtful solvency: they allow the holder of the mortgage to buy a house with very low repayment periods for the first two years. In the third year of the loan, the monthly payment doubles or triples. These mortgages, very common during the years of the housing bubble in Europe and the U.S., were one of the principal causes of the financial and economic crisis that Spain is still suffering.
Beyond its economic consequences, subprime mortgages are causing massive house evictions all over in Spain since 2007. Thousands of people, who, in the climate of economic expansion, were not able to afford a mortgage, contracted a subprime loan with the banks, receiving very little information about their terms. When the crisis hit, these families were the first ones to suffer from unemployment, leaving their debt unpaid and therefore being thrown out of their own homes and in most of the cases still owing the bank a large amount of the mortgage.
The Mortgage Platform (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca in Spanish) was born in this context as a social movement and organisation in Barcelona. It has expanded over the years all over Spain and has obtained the affiliation of thousands of people. The PAH has a base in each Autonomous Community capital, besides smaller foundations in almost every province. Organised through weekly assemblies and democratic participation, it tries to stop evictions through demonstrations, public pressure, and direct intervention when evictions take place.
Even though the Platform has been functioning since 2009, it is only in the last year that it has become well known to ordinary citizens. The PAH has increased its actions to stop evictions and to protest in front of banks or public authorities. Furthermore, the drama of house evictions has become a top concern for many families and the entire society. On top of this, some specific cases have shocked Spanish society.
The number of suicides due to evictions has increased so alarmingly that is now one of the public\u2019s major concerns. In the city of Barcelona, the number of suicides has increased by 60% between 2011 and 2012, according to information released by the Catalan Legal Medicine Institute. This rate is the highest in the whole of Spain.
A Popular Legislative Initiative to stop evictions
In order to reverse this situation, the PAH has presented the Spanish Parliament with a Popular Legislative Initiative, signed by more than a million and a half people, which seeks for a change in legislation on evictions. Opposed at first by the majority party in government, the right-wing People\u2019s Party (PP), the Initiative has obtained approval thanks to public pressure on the Spanish Parliament.
Massive demonstrations and pressure campaigns on social networks and through letters to the representatives, following the intervention before a parliamentary committee of the President of the Platform, the Catalan Ada Colau, forced the PP to reconsider the Initiative and allow its acceptance for taking it into consideration in order to promote a law.
Ada Colau\u2019s appearance at the Spanish Parliament obtained wide repercussion in the media for her denouncement of the unequal and unfair current system of evictions. The Catalan spokeswoman was one of the founders of the Platform and has become its main public figure.
The Initiative defends the inclusion of the payment on account in mortgage executions in the current legislation and an immediate freeze on evictions and social rents. Payment on account is an often-used solution to the mortgage problem in other European countries. It consists in the refund of the mortgaged property in order to pay off the debt when its holder cannot afford to pay it.
The document was promoted by several entities in Catalonia such as the General Workers\u2019 Union (UGT), Workers\u2019 Commissions Trade Union (CCOO), Catalan Consumers Association (UCC) or the Catalan Neighbors Associations Confederation (CONFAVC).
The Initiative is now pending debate in the Spanish Parliament in April, but its approval to be turned into a State-wide law is very uncertain because it requires the positive vote of the majority party, which is openly opposed to it. During Ada Colau\u2019s intervention last month, the spokeswoman highlighted that the only political parties which supported the initiative from its very beginning were the Catalan Green Socialist Party (ICV), United Left (IU) and the Left-Wing Catalan Independentist Party (ERC). Later on, the Canarian Coalition (CC) and the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU) also announced their support. The deciding votes will depend on the position of the two largest political parties in Spain, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the People\u2019s Party (PP).
Debate has been postponed until the Spanish Government receives the verdict from the European Union Court, which is considering the current mortgage legislation. If predictions come true, the verdict will be against the current mortgage law in Spain, and the second step of the campaign will start. This phase consists in a peaceful discredit campaign directed at those representatives who vote no to the Initiative, giving them information on the consequences of their actions and exercising public pressure.
Over 500 evictions per day
November last year, Catalonia had already witnessed almost 15,000 evictions in 2012, becoming the area of Spain with the greatest number of people thrown out of their houses. The number of evictions in the whole of Spain increased by 15% between 2011 and 2012.
The Mortgage Platform has paralysed a total amount of 591 evictions since it started its mobilization campaign in 2009. Last week, the Firemen Association of Valencia announced that it will stop participating in the evictions, following the steps of the Firemen in Galicia, which refused to take part in the eviction of an 80-year old woman last week.
The Hospitalet City Hall, the second most populous city in Catalonia, also approved last month to stop cooperating with the financial entities that execute evictions on its clients. Several other Catalan cities have already agreed to suspend evictions until the modification of the current mortgage law.
Moreover, the Barcelona City Hall recently decided to guarantee social services to those families at risk that are evicted daily in the city. This decision implies that City Hall\u2019 Social Services must be notified in advance of the cases in order to be able to give social attention \u2013 and even a house \u2013 to the families that require so.