Renting increases a 45% in Madrid since 2014

A woman being evicted / EFE

We don’t know many details of her life. Her name was Alicia, she was 65 years old. This morning she committed suicide by throwing herself into the void from the fifth floor when she was being evicted for not being able to pay her rent. She lived in Chamberí, a traditional neighborhood in the center of Madrid, where housing prices are exorbitant and continue rising.

The woman went to the social services of the City Council in May, where she was told that she should register to apply for the aid. The monthly payments to which Alicia could not cope are still unknown. According to the City Council, it was a «private» rent, although it has not trascended if the owner was an individual or a company. Municipal sources assure that in the District Board they did not have evidence of the eviction and assure that they did not know that Alicia had requested public housing.

The non-political action in the field of housing already left us in June a similar tragedy: Jordi Rodríguez, a 45 year-old man, ended with his life jumping from a window of his flat in Cornellá de Llobregat (Barelona).The platform for  the affected by mortgages (‘Plataforma para los Afectados por la Hipoteca’) launched a campaign calling for protests. «They are not suicides, they are murders» was their motto.

Jordi’s apartment belonged to dubious assets, ‘Quasar’ of Banco Santander (49%) and holdout ‘Blackstone’ (51%), a ‘vulture fund’, which is currently the largest fully private real estate in Spain. Its strategy: it buys companies and assets in difficulties, close to bankruptcy, in order to obtain a greater surplus value as quickly as possible. This venture capital fund is a clear representative of the wildest capitalism. Schwarzman, its founder and president, is one of the most feared ‘villains’ on Wall Street.

«We are at the worst moment. The crisis is still present in families, prices are skyrocketing and administrations do not have homes, «explains Raquel Rodríguez, professor at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. According to the latest data from the General Council of the Judiciary, 75% of the evictions in the capital of Spain occur because of difficulties to pay the rent; In the first half of 2018 more than 2,866 families (15 a day) had to leave their home by court order.

The evictions of a few years ago occurred in the context of the spanish mortgage crisis. Currently, most of them are due to abusive rents in large cities. The non-payment for lease already represents 80% of the total. In the Community of Madrid there is the highest proportion of evictions of «non-owners»: the rental price in the capital has increased by 45% during the last four years.

The epicenter of the conflict seems to be the cities. After Madrid, the cities that accumulate the most launches for non-payment of rent are Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Palma de Mallorca and Zaragoza.

Eviction in Cantabria / EFE

In the capital, house owners inflate prices, doesn’t matter if they are large or small individuals. The problem is that in a context of the brutal economic crisis that Spain suffers since 2008, many people only have access to a house through rent, because they can not afford a mortgage.

The lack of protection of tenants has worsened in recent years due to legal reforms that have «liberalized the rental housing sector and accelerated the judicial processes», according to Amnesty International in a report of 2017. A clear example is the Law of ‘Enjuiciamiento Civil’ . The changes introduced  decrease the possibilities of the tenant to present allegations during the eviction process, halving the time with which the owner must notify the tenant that he will sue and reduces the time from one month to 10 days that have families to deal with their debt or respond to demand. In addition, the reform in this law does not obligate the court to take into account the personal situation of the tenants, nor to examine the material inequality between the owner and the tenant.

According to Amnesty International’s 2017 Report, single-parent families are the ones that have the highest percentage in renting a house, being the poverty exposure rate 37.5% higher. In this kind of families, those formed by a woman and her children (83%) are especially vulnerable, reports this organization, since they are the ones that mostly have a part-time job and assume a greater burden of care.

‘Arrendamientos Urbanos’ Law underwent changes in 2013 to «revitalize the rental market», which has meant more insecurity for the tenant: the duration of rentals is reduced from five to three years, forcing the signing of the contract every less time . In addition, it allows owners to raise prices legally without setting maximums.

«We do not want to see more tragedies like Alicia’s and many others that have been silenced, be repeated again: we should not tolerate it,» Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, said in an appearance in the Senate.

Neighbours protest against an eviction in Euskadi / EFE

The Government assures that it will carry out changes in the eviction proceedings initiating a «special process» for the tenants in a «vulnerable» situation. For this, the Executive will introduce changes in this ‘Ley de Enjuciamiento Civil’ (Civil Procedure Law) so that an eviction is not carried out until the social services have made their work.

Currently, a new mortgage law is being negotiated by the current socialist government. Pedro Sanchez’s Executive  wants to have it ready before Christmas. Its objective is that banks can not begin to process an eviction unless the user has not paid the monthly payments for one year (in the first half of the mortgage) and 15 months (in the case of the second phase).

Not all groups support this initiative. From Unidos Podemos, a spanish new progesist party, insist on the need for this law to protect citizens against the abuses of banking. For this reason, they oppose rushing approval procedures, as it could allow many of the mortgage eviction proceedings that are now paralyzed to resume, pending the clarification of the European Union Court of Justice’s position on this matter.

Article 47 of the spanish Constitution recognizes the right of Spaniards to enjoy «dignified and adequate» housing. In addition, it grants the public powers the role of promoting the necessary conditions and rules to make it effective. The Bank was about to break the financial system a few years ago, and was rescued with public funds. Now, for these hundreds of thousands of families who want but can not pay their rent, there is no ransom.

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