Current Weather
The Spy FM

Spaniards Take To Streets To Block Home Evictions

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
November 13, 2012

For months, demonstrations have been popping up on otherwise quiet residential streets across Spain. The protesters form human chains, forcibly blocking bailiffs from evicting residents who’ve fallen behind on their mortgages. Sometimes the protests turn violent.

The demonstrations are another sign of just how pinched people are feeling as Spain’s economic crisis continues to roil. With Spanish unemployment above 25 percent, hundreds of people have been losing their homes each day.

Protesters recently jostled with police outside the Madrid home of Olga Veloso, who stopped making payments on her apartment when she lost her job as a janitor two years ago. She’s been served eviction papers twice.

“A judge came with the police to demand the keys to my home,” Veloso said. “But thanks to protesters and my neighbors, we all blocked the door and prevented them from entering. We stopped them twice, and I’m preparing for the third time.”

But she hopes there won’t be a third time. Things are looking up for homeowners here because Spain’s Cabinet is expected to vote Thursday on historic changes to the country’s mortgage laws, designed to keep defaulters in their homes longer.

Banks themselves have already declared a two-year freeze on evictions of Spaniards who are in “extreme” conditions. The move came after 53-year-old Amaia Egaña of the northern city of Bilbao threw herself from her fourth-floor window Friday and died as bailiffs were climbing the stairs to evict her.

The moratorium is limited to “cases of illness — serious ones — cases in which people are dependent on others, cases in which people are elderly, or have young children,” explained Miguel Martin, president of the Association of Spanish Banks.

Even After Eviction, Debt Continues

For weeks, protesters have gathered outside the Madrid headquarters of Bankia, Spain’s largest property lender, which went bust last spring. Bankia and other lenders are getting up to $125 billion in bailout funds from Europe.

Meanwhile, longtime Bankia customer Melchorita Garcia is asking for just a little leeway on her $500-a-month mortgage payment. All she’s gotten is an eviction notice.

“I’m really scared,” Garcia says. “I’m so worried about what will happen and where I’ll go if they take away my house and leave me in the street.”

Garcia hopes for relief under the new moratorium on evictions. She also lost her job, and her 14-year-old son, Miguel, has autism. She breaks down as she reads a letter from the boy, begging her loan officer to allow them to stay in their home.

“I don’t like to see my mother so sad, suffering without work, with all the people lined up outside the bank,” the letter says. “It’s very cold there. I hope you grant my wish. God will not abandon us. Sincerely, Miguel.”

Eviction is a devastating thing for a family anywhere. In Spain, it’s compounded by the fact that borrowers can’t walk away from a mortgage and declare bankruptcy, says economist Gayle Allard, at Madrid’s IE Business School.

“You walk away and you still owe money,” Allard said. “You lose your house, but you still owe money to the bank — which Americans, you know, we would find that outrageous.”

Spanish lawmakers are reviewing that rule and others this week, in hopes of granting some relief to borrowers. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

6AM to 7AM On Being

On Being

On Being engages listeners across the spectrum of belief and non-belief in conversation about life's deepest questions. From autism to the ethics of torture, Krista and her guests reach beyond the headlines to probe faith and meaning, ethics and new ways of being, amidst the political, ecological, economic, cultural and technological shifts that define 21st century life.

Listen Live Now!

8AM to 10AM Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition Sunday premiered on January 18, 1987, and was the last of NPR's major newsmagazines to hit air. Since then, Weekend Edition Sunday has covered newsmakers and artists, scientists and politicans, music makers of all kinds, writers, thinkers, theologians and all manner of news events.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10PM Sound Opinions

Sound Opinions

Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions-the world's only rock and roll talk show.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center