Once again, eight months on from Spain’s last general strike, protesters have taken to the streets of the country to rage against the government’s austerity policies and the role played by banks in the financial crisis that has seen tens of thousands of people evicted from their homes.
Following the death of 53-year-old Amaia Egaña who jumped to her death from a balcony allegedly after bailiffs arrived to repossess her home in the Basque town of Barakaldo, there has been much soul searching within Mariano Rajoy’s government about the plight of the country’s homeless. There have been an estimated 400,000 repossessions since the property crisis came to a head in 2008 and yet ironically approximately one million vacant properties lie abandoned across the country with little hope in the current climate of finding buyers.
Despite Mariano Rajoy’s knee-jerk proposal of a two year moratorium for the most vulnerable families facing eviction, and a pending cross party agreement on the issue, many of those who have lost their homes are taking matters into their own hands. Desperation has seen scores of the dispossessed either illegally re-entering buildings from which they’ve been ousted or living in vacant properties that more often than not lack water and electricity supplies.
Here in the Baleares, with a nod to Spain’s central government, banks have signed up to a charter agreeing to no more repossessions unless in extreme circumstances. So far so good but what will happen about all those unpaid mortgages? Can the government realistically magic them away over time or will the debt hang like the Ancient Mariner’s albatross around the necks of the disaffected for evermore?
The nightmare for the majority of unemployed Spanish homeowners unable to meet mortgage payments is that their homes have been greatly devalued during the recent property slump. Despite that, they are personally liable for the full amount of their mortgages and if they can’t pay, are faced with heavy penalties, interest charges and court fees. Filing for bankruptcy isn’t an option either because in Spain mortgage debt isn’t included in the process.
It seems that Mariano Rajoy’s reprieve for those on the brink of homelessness couldn’t have come a moment too soon. With any luck at least some beleaguered Spanish families will still be able to keep the homes fires burning.
Please feel free to comment on this article. All comments are moderated, so it will appear after I have checked it. Thanks!
Please sign up here for my monthly e-newsletter.