News  Squatting in Spain

Looking at the Spanish housing crisis during Social Justice Days

As part of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill’s annual event Social Justice Days, the Collectifs des Immigrants Espagnol de Montréal presented the workshop ‘Squatting in Spain.’

The event looked at the reality in Spain following the collapse of the real estate bubble and the current economic and social crisis. Squatting is defined as taking residence in an unoccupied or abandoned building (usually residential). Squatters do not have legal permission to occupy the space.

“The unemployment rate for the general population is 25.8 per cent and for people under 25, the unemployment rate is 54.3 per cent.”

According to Enrique Llanes, who has been a squatter for more than five years in the United Kingdom and Spain, “90 per cent of squatters do not choose this life by choice, it is a necessity.”

Spain has been facing a housing crisis since the collapse of the real estate bubble in 2008.

“In 2007 there were more than 420,000 foreclosures and around 220,000 evictions of families.” Carol Galais, a member of the Collectifs, explained. “In 2012, every 15 minutes, a family lost their home in Spain due to foreclosures.”

According to Galais, since 2002, the Spanish government and banks have been encouraging housing construction as a means to boost the economy.

Veronica Crespo, another member of the Collectifs, continued, “Spanish banks gave out loans irresponsibly during this period. The loans covered 80 per cent to 100 per cent of the total cost of the home. At the height of the construction boom, 750,000 homes were built [per] year and yet no one believed that there was a real estate bubble […] until the burst in 2008”.

“The unemployment rate for the general population is 25.8 per cent and for people under 25, the unemployment rate is 54.3 per cent,” Crespo added.

The European Union has classified Spanish mortgage laws as a violation of consumer-protection rules. Currently, 13 to 15 per cent of homes are unoccupied in Spain. In response to increasing suicides of evicted homeowners, the Spanish government issued a two-year moratorium on evictions.

According to the presenters, housing is not considered a human right in Spain. In Canada, there have been efforts to push the government to enact adequate housing as a human right. In 2012, Bill C-400 was introduced to ensure secure, adequate, accessible, and affordable housing for Canadians. However, this bill failed to pass in February 2013.