Evictions are state violence and institutional theft

Author: Leah Pattem. Photos: Jon Imanol Reino

Yesterday morning, police carried out the eviction of Manuela and Jesus, and their four small children (9, 8, 2 and 1) from their Vallecas flat where they had lived for seven years. The family initially occupied the flat because they couldn’t afford to rent anywhere and, despite having two toddlers at the time, were not granted social housing. The flat they chose to occupy belongs to CaixaBank, with which the family tried to negotiate without success.

Around 30 people from anti-eviction group PAH spent the night at Manuela’s house, while, in the morning, dozens of people gathered outside to prevent the eviction of the young family. An army of riot police began arriving at 5 in the morning, cordoning off the area. After a peaceful resistance, the police broke open the door and began to forcibly eject those who were still inside the house.

© Jon Imanol Reino
© Jon Imanol Reino
© Jon Imanol Reino

A video of Manuela is circulating where she tells a television interviewer how she explained the situation to her children. “[My daughter] was there, right at the front, and has seen everything,” she said. “[I told her] “that there were so many people because it was her birthday, and she was very happy.”

© Jon Imanol Reino

Institutional theft

When a property in Spain belongs to a bank, it means it was most likely repossessed during the 2008 financial crisis from a previous owner who couldn’t make their mortgage payments. Between 2014 and 2019, 252,213 homes in Spain were repossessed by banks.

There are estate agents that specialise in properties repossessed by banks. The properties are advertised as being preferable over those on the organic market as they’re cheaper, easier to get a mortgage on, and the transaction is fast because there’s no one currently living there. However, many remain empty, gaining value – this is speculation.

Property speculation: Tenants are evicted and the property remains empty for years until demand in the local area increases, and therefore rental prices increase. At this point, the empty flat is put back on the market at inflated price. This practice is employed by individual owners, vulture funds and also banks.

The Government of Spain has a 16% stake in Caixabank, which is why this eviction should, and could, have been stopped. Instead, the flat will sit empty until it can be rented or purchased at market price, which is increasingly unaffordable against the average salary in Madrid.

The National Securities Market Commission, in its last update on May 6, 2021, declared that CaixaBank obtained a net profit of 514 million euros during the first quarter of 2021, which represents an increase of 471.11% with respect to the same period of the previous year.

Offence: being unable to pay a bill. Punishment by law: homelessness.

  • Just 2.5% of homes in Spain are social housing.
  • 30% of all empty housing in Europe is in Spain – around 3.5 million homes.
  • In Madrid, 280,000 homes lie empty.
  • The PP have sold 4,800 council homes to vulture funds.
  • Since 2008, over 2.5 million people have been evicted from their homes across Spain.

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