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Barcelona mayor calls for rethink on evictions in wake of suicides

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Quique García/EPA</span>
Photograph: Quique García/EPA

Ada Colau, the Barcelona mayor, has called for a rethink on evictions after official statistics revealed that nearly 11,000 individuals and families have been evicted in Spain during the first three months of this year, in spite of a moratorium imposed in March.

During the last three months of 2020, when the country was in the grip of the second wave of Covid-19, 11,202 evictions were carried out in Spain.

Catalonia leads the eviction table with an average of 24 a day and a total of 2,437 in the first quarter, more than twice the number for Madrid. The majority, 1,635, were carried out in Barcelona.

“We want the courts to revise the criteria that do or do not apply under the current moratorium,” Colau, a former housing activist, said after news emerged of another in a series of eviction-related suicides.

The victim, a 60-year-old immigrant from Ecuador, threw himself from his balcony after learning he was to be evicted for non-payment of rent. Despite having been unemployed for two years and reliant on food banks to survive, he did not meet the criteria for exemption on grounds of vulnerability set out under the moratorium, which expires on 9 August.

The UK introduced a similar moratorium under which from August 2020 to May 2021 landlords had to give tenants at least six months’ notice of eviction.

According to the statistics, 75% of Spain’s evictions are now of tenants, a shift from the first few years after the financial crisis hit in 2008 when the majority of people were being evicted because they could not keep up with their mortgage payments.

During the property boom at the start of the century, many people bought so-called minimum rate mortgages that included a claúsula suelo (floor clause) under which the mortgage still had to be paid even after the bank had foreclosed and evicted the occupants. These mortgages were declared illegal by a Spanish court on 2016.

According to the anti-eviction campaign People Affected by Mortgages, in which Colau was an activist before becoming mayor, there have been more than 1m evictions in Spain since 2008.

A 2017 report published by the Abbé Pierre Foundation, which helps to house disadvantaged people, found that the European countries with the highest eviction rates were Luxembourg, the UK, Belgium and France, with Spain in 11th place.

Colau has also called on the Madrid government to drop its opposition to the policy of rent controls recently introduced in Catalonia.

Contrary to landlords’ claims that rent controls would lead to fewer properties being made available, the tenants’ union says the number of rental contracts signed in areas with rent controls has risen by 11% compared with last year while rents have fallen by an average of nearly 5%.

Rents in Spain have risen by about 45% since 2015 while wages have only gone up 3.4% in the same period. In Barcelona, the average monthly rent of €900 is equivalent to 142% of a 25-year-old’s typical income.

• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.



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