Residents organize themselves in the face of the mortgage crisis in Spain

Ada COLAU, 2012

Collection Passerelle

Spain, from the 1960s, initiated a policy of encouraging access to property. With the return to democracy, the problem intensified and the country was transformed into a landlord country. Renting is no longer common or encouraged (too expensive to be viable). It is an economic and cultural project : the population is more docile when it only thinks about working to pay back its loan and mortgage. In Spain, 90% of the population owns their homes and renting is seen as the solution for the excluded, for young people and for those who do not have a life plan. This situation has been unbridled with the liberalization of the credit market and the non-regulation of property taxes. The Spanish government since the 1960s has always had a clear political discourse, encouraging the population to buy a house, arguing that the price of housing was never going to go down and that renting was like throwing your money out the window. Now, the Rajoy government says that the crisis situation is due to the population living beyond their means, making them guilty of the country’s ills.

The real estate bubble in Spain - although denied by the authorities for many years - has resulted in the over-indebtedness of a large part of the population as well as a grave problem of access to housing. The Spanish economy is based on real estate, which means that a large part of the population no longer owns anything.

It is also the vagueness of the mortgage issues that has led to serious difficulties: the process by which owners are asked for a mortgage was completely unknown to them. With the crisis, the mortgage is halved (no one wants to buy anymore) and people find themselves in debt for life. 350,000 households are affected, homeless and over-indebted. This causes huge problems in terms of economic means (no credit, no work, no entrepreneurship, no renting) for all social classes. Many lives have been destroyed and this has happened very quickly (in four years), which has created a huge shock.

In response to this crisis, the Platform (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca) was created in 2009 with two objectives :

  1. immediate response to the affected population since there is no response from the state and no social housing, while Spain is the leader in empty properties. The banks are becoming the largest owners and are selling these properties in pieces. The movement must give visibility to the people affected both for their debt problem and the lack of housing.

  2. enforce the right to housing, in response to the collapse of the landlord model and therefore change the law. The grassroots movement must lead the struggle.

The Platform does not aim to provide individual assistance to people, but instead encourages collective action. By meeting other affected people, people no longer feel guilty, they become aware of the collective aspect of the problem.

It is urgent to cancel the debt of all these households and to convert the housing stock in the hands of the banks into social housing. The social movement against mortgages already has the support of some town halls and people from the judicial sector.

The urgency of the action lies in the fact that housing is a matter of survival. The Platform fights to keep people in their homes by putting pressure on judges (blocking judgments). With the Indignados, the support movement has intensified and spread. When it is no longer possible to fight evictions, the Platform reinvests empty buildings to rehouse people without housing. The movement culminates and has more and more legitimacy.


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