The death of Amaia sparked a protest against evictions
The Association of Spanish Banks (AEB) has this week issued a temporary freeze on all evictions of “vulnerable homeowners,” following protests after a woman killed herself on Friday moments before she was going to be evicted. It was the second suicide of a struggling mortgage holder in the last three weeks.
The AEB confirmed that the banks in its association would halt evictions for the next two years with immediate effect “for humanitarian reasons and as a mark of its policy of social responsibility.”
The decision came after the country’s major political parties held talks on Monday to discuss reforming Spain’s 103 year-old mortgage laws with the hope of cutting the number of repossessions.
Under current legislation, if a borrower defaults on repayments and loses their homes, they are liable to repay all the debt, with the lender having rights on the borrower’s future income until the debt is cleared.
Since Spain’s decade-long property boom ended in 2008, lenders have foreclosed on more than 350,000 properties nationwide, however it is not clear how many of these were residential and how many resulted in evictions.
A week ago today, 53-year-old Amaia Egaña, a former socialist councillor, jumped to her death from her fourth floor apartment in the town of Barakaldo, in the Basque Country, as bailiffs arrived to evict her.
As the news of the incident spread, shocked neighbours gathered at the scene with flowers and candles to pay their respects to Amaia who was “loved by everyone who knew her.”
On 25th October, as was reported by SUR in English, José Miguel Domingo, a kiosk owner from Granada, hanged himself hours before he was due to lose his home. In that same week, an unemployed man in Valencia reportedly threw himself off a balcony the day before he and his family was due to be evicted, although he survived the fall.
The suicides have prompted fury from all the main political parties, most authorities and institutions, and the public.
The outrage is being directed squarely at the banking sector for continuing to implement evictions when some of the banks received part of the EU bailout funds which could total 100 billion euros.
And whilst the AEB’s decision to freeze evictions has been welcomed by many, some campaigners are less convinced.
Speaking to this newspaper, Ada Colou, a spokesperson for the PAH pressure group, which has been campaigning for mortgage law reforms for three years, said: “We don’t trust the announcement made by the AEB, because it only concerns moratoriums on those evictions for people in ‘extreme need’, without defining what they mean by ‘extreme need.’
“Also, the moratorium will not help the hundreds of thousands of families who have foreclosure proceedings against them already under way.”
As politicians met to debate changing the mortgage laws in light of the deaths, Spain’s Secretary of State for the Economy. Luis de Guindo said: “The government and the Economy Ministry have to take steps so that no family in good faith goes without a home.”
Elena Valenciano, the deputy leader of the opposition party, the PSOE, commented that “Banks are being helped by public funds - now the public management of the economy should be used to help people rather than the banks.”
The country’s largest police trade union said it would “fully support” any officer who conscientiously objected to enforcing property evictions