"If it doesn’t work the first time, we try again and in the end the bank always gives in"
We’re trying to give everyone the right to a home. In Spain, mortgage laws are the worst in Europe: the banks kick you out and you keep the debt. Even in Greece, which has bigger economic and social problems than us, they don’t kick you out on the street.When a family is told they are going to be evicted, we go to the bank to propose an offer. When a bank refuses our offer we ask our members to take part in an ‘action’ at the bank.
We choose a normal working day, so the bank is open, but we still get lots of people coming down because so many people in Granada are unemployed nowadays [Editor’s note: Granada is in the region of Andalusia, where unemployment stands at 36 percent, 10 percent higher than the national average].We stand outside the bank, blocking the door, and sometimes we even go inside, demanding the bank agree to not evict the family. It’s really bad publicity for the bank, because they can’t work, their clients can’t get inside, and we warn their clients about how bad their bank’s behaviour is.
If it doesn’t work the first time, we try again and in the end the bank always gives in. We’re not asking for the moon: our requests are reasonable.We’ve stopped about 200 evictions in Granada since we started two years ago. But that figure only counts evictions that were just about to happen: we’ve stopped many more in the early stages through negotiation. We always try to solve the problem first by negotiating an offer with the bank. In the last five months, we’ve stopped about thirty evictions through negotiation.One type of offer involves the family giving the house to the bank, the debt is erased, and the bank and the family agree on a monthly rent. But the problem here is that the agreement is signed for a number of years, and when the time is up, the family will be faced with the same initial problem.Another solution is restructuring the mortgage, which is best for everyone because the bank will always be paid the full amount, but just over a longer time period, and the family will eventually own the property.
When we first started out in 2011, the negotiation was harder because the banks didn’t feel obliged to negotiate: they thought they were the masters of Spain! There are so many empty houses here, so banks don’t want to repossess a house in exchange for wiping out someone’s debt. But then our movement grew, and the media showed us support, and this forced the banks to retreat a little.But the majority of people with unaffordable mortgages are still being evicted: we can only help when we hear about an eviction, so there are families facing problems that don’t get to us.Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution states that "Every Spaniard has the right to enjoy decent and suitable housing". Of course, this right is, as we say in Spanish, ‘wet paper’: pure fiction. Since the constitution was signed in 1978, the people running politics and the economy have always called the Constitution "sacred", but they always forget the articles that talk about social rights.