On 23 October a young man threw himself off a road bridge in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, after losing his job, his girlfriend and his home in quick succession.
On 24 October a 54-year-old man in Granada hanged himself in his patio after receiving an eviction notice from BBVA. He had lived in the area all his life, and bought out his brothers' share of the property when they inherited it, but could no longer afford the repayments from the little he earned running a street kiosk.
On 7 July a 56-year-old disabled woman facing eviction threw herself out of the window of her eleventh-floor flat in Málaga city. She got caught up on some railings and hung there helplessly for several minutes before falling to her death, watched by over a hundred people. There was little press coverage, leading to speculation that the news had been suppressed.
|Asasinos - murderers|
Since the financial bubble burst in 2008, over 350,000 families have been evicted from their homes after defaulting on their mortgage payments. There is no housing benefit in Spain, and no statutory requirement to re-house people who lose their homes, even though Article 47 of the Constitution states that "all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing". Care of the homeless is largely left to charities like the Red Cross.
Meanwhile, the number of jobless is predicted to reach six million next year, more than a quarter of the working population. For those still working, wages have been cut by up to 20% in some parts of the public sector.
|50-year 120% mortgages on offer|
When the bubble burst in 2008, the building stopped, unemployment rose dramatically and many people could no longer afford to make their high mortgage repayments.
Under Spanish law, homeowners who fall behind with their mortgage repayments see their property repossessed by the lender, but are still responsible for paying off the debt. There is no personal bankruptcy option in Spain, at least not without a long and costly court procedure. In their election manifesto the Partido Popular included a pledge to change the law to "allow for debtors to be freed of their debts". Since coming to power, this appears to have been quietly dropped.
|Waiting for the bailiffs in Almería, copy of the Spanish Constitution in hand|
Last Thursday, the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Juliane Kokott, handed down a non-binding legal opinion that criticized Spanish laws regarding evictions, saying they were incompatible with European norms. The ruling came in response to a query from a Spanish court on a 2011 lawsuit over an eviction due to an unpaid mortgage. Kokott said the Spanish system did not sufficiently protect consumers against possible abusive clauses in mortgage contracts.
|Non-violent civil disobedience by PAH members outside a bank in Málaga|
|Carmen and her childen will be rehoused at a rent she can afford|
Prompted by the national and international reaction to the suicides (much harder to ignore than street protests), the Spanish government has put together a "task force" to examine the problem of evictions. It is not expected to report until January 2013. In the meantime banks are being requested (not ordered) to freeze all foreclosures currently under way.
|Changes in the law will come too late for Amaia Egaña in Barakaldo ...|
|... too late for José Miguel Domingo in Granada ...|
|... and too late for Isabel in Málaga.|