Spain’s Housing Crisis: Banks, Scams And Evictions
People who don't know what an eviction is can't put themselves in our shoes. Thinking that the police are going to come. You feel really frightened. Frightened and afraid. The banks are on the side of the rich. Nobody knows what we're going through, the people whose houses are taken.
When Spain was hit by the great crisis that came from the United States in 2008, we were in a situation in which there was a lot of construction happening in Spain and they were giving out garbage mortgages that were full of unfair terms. So people have gotten into debt and then the crisis hit and people started to lose their jobs, so they couldn't pay the mortgages. All the banks that are evicting families at the moment are taking over thousands and thousands of houses and have become the largest real estate companies in this country. Spanish banks, as well as international banks that work in Spain, have defrauded thousands and thousands of families in this country with impunity. There are more than one million people who have been evicted and thrown out of their homes, and they're left with huge debts for the rest of their lives.
This bank that is obsessed with my pay cheque, that steals my wages every day. I told them I don't have any more money, and they told me they're going to evict me. They made me add even more zeros to the debt that was impossible to repay. And eventually they threw me onto the fucking street with no rights and they didn't bat an eyelid. My name is Mar’a del Carmen Arnedo. I am 70 years old.
My son took out a mortgage in 2004. He had a good salary and he was paying 1,100 euros [monthly]. But in order to give him the mortgage, they made me a guarantor. Then the bubble burst, many people became unemployed and could no longer pay.
And the banks really went after them and have taken many, many of our houses. When my son became unemployed, he stopped paying, and they auctioned off our two apartments. The Cajamar bank wants to take away my house! And the auctioneer has taken my house from me for 58,000 euros.
And today he has put it up for sale for 200,000 euros! Shameful! Shameful! I'm retired. I receive 600 euros, so because my house has been taken away from me, I have to live off my children, because I can't survive off 600 euros. I just can't. The government intervenes in the Spanish real estate market and totally transforms it so that it is suddenly really attractive to invest in housing in Spain.
Public money, public aid was given to those banks that were evicting people and even though they were given billions of euros of public money, they were still allowed to evict people, instead of having to offer social rents, for example. So this is what we have seen. International funds taking advantage of the international context in order to raise capital that they will invest in the Spanish real estate sector to generate returns that are not being generated in other markets.
And at the same time, almost 5,000 public houses were sold to two of the world's largest vulture funds, Blackstone and Goldman Sachs. Blackstone had become the top landlord in the United States, buying up precisely the houses of those families who were being evicted at below-market prices. In Spain, Blackstone was trying to do the same. We can't believe this is all done at random. In these years , Mr de Guindos was already Spain's Minister of Economy.
This was a man who came from being European Director General of one of the world's largest investment funds, Lehman Brothers. Also, at the European Central Bank, you had Mr Mario Draghi, who also came from another huge investment fund, Goldman Sachs. It sends a message to the international financial markets: the Spanish government has changed the law and there is a huge opportunity to profiteer and make a lot of money in a short amount of time. Immediately afterwards, all these international funds began to invest massively in housing in Spain.
We're talking about packages of, in many cases, 1,500 houses, 2,500 houses. They would buy the houses that were in the hands of the banks, the houses that the banks were beginning to accumulate, homes of evicted families. They would transfer them to these funds for below-market prices. Neighbour, beware! Eviction's almost there! I don't care, my children aren't going to sleep on the streets. I don't want to get angry, but it's not going to happen.
Because of COVID they can't throw people out, but they don't respect anything. They throw people out regardless of COVID, they do it anyway. They're shameless. The one up there is my youngest daughter and the one who is now showing her ID is my oldest daughter. My two girls live here, there are five of them and they're still being thrown out of the apartment, having tried to negotiate the rent.
The apartments of the bank belong to the wealthy and they sell them to vulture funds, like in this case, for a pittance. And they don't give you the option of renting or anything else. We will stop this eviction! Evictions on the rise, that's why the people organise! Are you from the PAH [Platform for People Affected by Mortgages]? I've talked to these people. Have they cancelled it? Yes, they have granted you a month. One month for the kids to move and find another place. So they stopped it for a month, right? Well, say thanks to everyone for coming.
It's annoying for the kids, they've got things to do. Thank you! Thanks a lot! We haven't won the war, but we have won a battle. Not the war, but at least a battle. From the letters I received I learned that many of my debts had been bought by investment funds. They had been bought by third parties. The dynamics of states relying on these investment funds for their debt and letting them control private debt as well leads to a society that is increasingly dependent on corporations and is structured just the way the corporations want it to be.
Enric Duran is a 40-year-old Spanish activist who robbed banks by taking out dozens of loans. He applied for loans from banks without having any intention of paying them back, and managed to evade the financial information and control systems. And he managed to distribute almost half a million euros to anti-capitalist projects and social movements. My name is Enric Duran. I've been an activist for more than 20 years.
Between 2005 and 2008 I carried out an act of disobedience against the financial system that consisted of taking out loans, 68 loans in 39 banks. With that action I wanted to denounce the banking system, I wanted to show that the system requires perpetual growth and the control of corporations and banks in particular. And that this was dangerous for our society.
I think there's a lot of work to be done, we've seen that even more in the last year with the pandemic, in building a world in which the power of the citizens is balanced and doesn't depend on the power of large corporations and governments. Since what happened to me and my son, I have become an activist for the PAH. Everyone who has housing problems, we accept them and we do all the paperwork for them, everything. We go to the bank... whatever is needed to help that family.
It's who I am. And we're there, protesting. Well, I was shouting at the police and a photographer friend of ours took that photo of me. Okay, good evening everyone. As you all know, this is a housing assembly.
And this assembly is completely free. We also want to tell you that we're not an NGO. The important thing about the assemblies is that we help one another and we collaborate to the best of our abilities. Okay? I'm four months pregnant and I can't find a place to live.
And the eviction is on May 17. The shameful thing is that in Alcorc—n, in many municipalities, the largest holders are the banks and the vulture funds. And then we're left, like our comrade said, in your case pregnant, without legal papers and facing this threat. That's why I think Saturday's demonstration is important. It's important to initiate and support all the campaigns that the coordinating committee have started, in order to highlight our rights.
Carmen and I know each other through activism. We met here in the struggle for housing rights. Carmen's case is one of full-blown fraud. A bank scam.
Well, this is my house. To be honest they've made changes to it, other people must be living here. I don't know, but there are already plant pots in the windows.
It seems people are already living there, otherwise there wouldn't be plant pots there I guess. Well, it makes me sad. The truth is I hadn't come back here since I handed the keys over to the auctioneer, because I don't want to see it. I mean...
Well, you can understand that it's really sad for me. Look, my kids used to play down there, you know? And I used to throw their toys down to them with a little rope. We really enjoyed living here. So, well, it makes me sad that it's no longer mine or my children's, because really, I'm 70 years old and I couldn't enjoy it as much, but my children were going to enjoy this apartment.
Is this your son's loan? Yes. 120,000 euros. Yes. They took my house away from me because I acted as a guarantor for my son. Two houses. Two houses. First my son's, which was taken by the bank, and then mine, which was taken by an auctioneer for 58,000 euros. Carmen, your son's loan is also riddled with abusive bank clauses.
He was forced to take out home and pension insurance, and insurance against non-payment of the contract. Yes, stipulating that if he stopped paying and so on... Although it didn't do him any good.
No it didn't help him at all, despite having it. We have realised that the banks have lied to all of us over these years, to all of us, that all the mortgages contain small print and the banks have lied to us all. And on top of that, the banks are being bailed out.
But if the banks have money from all of us... honestly I don't get it. They were supposed to bail us out, the ones who were affected, and give us that money, but they bail out the banks. I just don't get it.
Well, that's Spain for you. Spain is doing well. The problem, ladies and gentlemen, is that the housing market in Spain is controlled by real estate oligarchies, who first created a mortgage bubble and then a rental bubble. One out of every three homes registered in Spain since 2015 belongs to large landlords, banks or investment funds.
In fact, a vulture fund known as Blackstone has already become the main landlord in Spain. Since you are all at the service of the big developers, who have been financing you for decades, you, ladies and gentleman, are all bought. Some economic powers are more in charge than the MPs who have been elected by the people.
The investment funds have more power than the deputy vice-president. We also make it clear: if your will and your capacity for political action is hijacked by these economic powers, your capacity for action is reduced. And we have seen this so often that we have normalised it, but it becomes part of this democratic abnormality in which we find ourselves.
How can you fix this? Well, you can fix it by legally banning the practice of revolving doors. You can fix it by not allowing there to be political forces that are indebted to the banks, in other words, by not allowing people who represent the citizens to be bound by economic powers. So, the crisis is not an exception in any way. When we talk about the banking scam...
I think the banks are the ones who make big money with capitalism. But it's not in itself a scam. It's the dynamics of the system, it's the system that does the scamming. How many people make a good living under capitalism? Approximately 1.5 billion people. And there are about 7 billion of us.
What about everyone else? They are constantly struggling. Now there's another... We were still suffering from the crisis of 2007-2008, then comes another crisis, although it's very different, but it's hitting those who were already suffering.
The pandemic has some winners and some losers. The most important - and most obvious - winners are the large corporations. Then we have the people who work sporadically, the freelancers, the small business owners who are most affected, and their economy has been destroyed this year. In many cases they have become reliant on state subsidies. I think it's best if we start before midday, because there's a lot of people waiting in the queue already.
What's the name? Mar’a InŽs. We're here out of necessity because of the pandemic, it has affected us all, all of us, but we have to pay our rent. I can't pay my rent because if I do, I don't eat. I don't want to cry because... we're struggling, you know? And...
I don't know what to tell you. And if we're here it's because we really need to be, you know? I don't like this, but I have to do it because I have my children, I have my grandchild and there are people, who think you do this just for the sake of it, but no, you do it out of necessity, because you can't manage any more, you can't cope. Every form of resistance is necessary.
Enric Duran was exemplary because he challenged the power of the banks and showed that it's possible. Since 2013 I have been living in exile, after legal proceedings were initiated against me and it was expected that the trial wouldn't be fair. I decided that the best thing I could do was to leave and continue working on these initiatives from outside of Catalonia. All this time I have dedicated myself to building empowering economic and social alternatives, from the local level, cooperatives... Enric Duran is one of the fundamental founders of the 'Cooperativa Integral Catalana'.
We have taken up the work that Enric Duran and his affinity group initially started, determined to believe that it is possible to live outside the system, possible to live outside of capitalism, that there is hope. We have been working in a more local network, on a project that takes on the banks and certain companies. We continue to be a place of resistance. It's a question of supporting all these types of initiatives, both those of Eric Duran as well as those of many, many groups of collectives and cooperatives.
During the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs and we're trying to help everyone. Here we're not interested in your nationality, or the colour of your skin, nor the language you speak. The communities who are suffering under this system, because they are suffering... they have to resist. What we are trying to do is organise the tenants to fight back against these abusive rent increases, to not pay them, to organise and to fight for decent rents.
The people who are really stopping these evictions are the trade unions, housing groups and networks. We are the people who are truly saving the people. I made this costume for the protests against the vulture funds. It's a way of showing them what they really are. I bought my little apartment... I bought my little apartment... investment in real estate was all the rage, they tricked me like a fool.
If the people are united, they will never be defeated. If you have never given up, shout with me. Yes we can! Yes we can! We will keep fighting, no matter what it takes. Get the vultures out of our homes! No houses without people, no people without houses! We are here to push for a housing law in this country, a state housing law, that provides citizens of this country with extensive rights. We don't want a single eviction without a public housing alternative. Twenty seven per cent of this country's population lived in poverty before the pandemic.
When this ruling that temporarily stalls evictions at the moment ends, we will start to see an avalanche of evictions. There's Ali Baba's Cave! They're the ones who took my house from me, that's Cajamar. Cajamar took my house from me. That bank steals and scams, they're the ones who took away my house and my son's house.
We have to go further and create societies that are much more decentralised, ones in which the decisions that affect our lives don't depend on large bureaucratic structures. Where decisions are decentralised in communities, are made directly by the citizens, in voluntary groups that organise themselves, in cooperatives, in local institutions, in town halls, etc. It can be done, but they won't allow it! When something isn't fair, the most legitimate response is to disobey. Carmen is waiting for the city of Alcorc—n to provide her with safe housing. Enric Duran still lives in hiding and faces arrest in Spain. Juan's family are expecting eviction in November 2021 and haven't been offered alternative housing.
In 2020, 29,406 evictions took place in Spain. One in five people live under the poverty line, whilst 40,000 live on the streets. Simultaneously, more than 3.4 million apartments remain empty, owned by private landlords, investment funds and banks.
And they continue to deceive us, they say Spain is doing well. And no matter how hard I try, I can't believe it. They say they've passed a law to stop the evictions, but they have tricked us, because they're still evicting us.