The evictions have starred in the last internal scuffle in the coalition government . After the rejection by Congress of the amendment to the Budgets presented by United Podemos, ERC and Bildu, the issue has been pending in a negotiation within the Government that, as indicated by Vice President Pablo Iglesias in Congress, will give rise to to a decree within two weeks .
Precisely this Thursday they had agreed to meet representatives of the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda and the Vice Presidency of Social Rights to advance the agreement.
As the political debate continues, the truth is that it is difficult to quantify the magnitude of the problem. The National Institute of Statistics only offers series of foreclosures, but once the hardest years of the Great Recession have been overcome, the majority of people evicted from their homes have long been living in Spain for rent (approximately seven out of ten evictions are by tenants , and the remaining three respond to foreclosures).
The General Council of the Judiciary does collect these data from the launches ordered by the courts. But the problem is that the latest statistics published refers to the second quarter of the year. As April, May and June coincide with the first state of alarm due to the epidemic (in force from March 14 to June 21) and the courts were practically closed, andThe result is that evictions fell by 90% .
The sample is not representative and we will have to wait for the data for the third quarter, expected in the coming weeks, to shed some more light.
What seems clear is that, after months of maximum confinement, the evictions have continued their course.
This was confirmed by a recent report published by the Barcelona City Council’s anti- eviction unit , which highlighted having knowledge of 443 eviction orders in the city between September 14 and October 23. As a result, it quantified 1,211 people in vulnerable situations affected, among which there were 463 minors.
The Town Hall report directed by Ada Colau alluded to an “alarming increase in tension and neighborhood tension” and came to the conclusion that “it is of the utmost urgency to extend the moratorium on launches to all people in vulnerable situations.”
Jaime Palomera, spokesman for the Barcelona Llogaters Union, believes that these data prove that “as soon as the courts were reactivated in September, there was a clear decision to accelerate the processes that had accumulated during the stoppage.”
It also refers to a “change in attitude” along the lines of the report, which spoke of a “disproportionate police presence.” “We are seeing practically every day devices typical of a raid against drug trafficking to evict vulnerable families,” says Palomera, for whom it is not enough to suspend the expulsions of people affected during the pandemic because “they will occur once the effects of the decree law end ”.
“In my court I don’t have that perception; I can say that the criteria have not changed and, of course, there are no orders ”, answers Roberto García Ceniceros, magistrate of the Court of First Instance number 30 of Barcelona, when asked about the supposed greater presence of riot police in the evictions.
“The idea of when the judge has to go to the security forces is still as exceptional as they were before,” he adds. The magistrate does point out that the impact of the decree that paralyzes the launches by the covid “is not significant.” In his court, he explains, “there may still be three or four [suspended evictions], and we are talking about a fairly large volume of proceedings.”
Natalia Palomar, a Provivienda lawyer, agrees with that perception. “The experience we are having is that the majority of suspensions are produced not by this decree, but by the way that already existed,” he says.
A modification of the Civil Procedure Law in March 2019 imposed a temporary suspension of the launch when social services accredit the vulnerability of the tenant. But after the expected deadline (one or three months, depending on whether the owner is an individual or a company), the eviction can still be executed, despite the state of alarm.
Palomar insists that the current regulation linked to the pandemic “forgets that there are many people who were vulnerable and whom this situation has made more vulnerable, although not officially.”
The basis of the problem, all those consulted agree, is the lack of alternatives for those who cannot afford to pay for a house in the free market. But building more social housing takes time, and the discrepancy is what to do in the meantime.
The tenant unions insist on using vacant properties or preventing the conversion of houses into tourist flats. Sources from the Ministry of Transportation recall that the latest modification of the state housing plan includes specific programs for evicted people, which must be developed by the communities.
Sources from the Department of Housing of the Basque Government, one of those that allocate the most resources to the matter, point out that on its stock of 14,000 homes no one has been expelled for not being able to pay during the pandemic.
What seems clear is that the Government’s decree will include the main demand of social groups: to extend the stoppage of evictions to all vulnerable people, and not only to those whose situation has worsened due to the epidemic.
This has been requested by the party of Pablo Iglesias, whose initial proposal, according to sources from United We Can, is to agree to said suspension until the end of 2022. However, they understand that at least it should be done while the restrictions last.
And they also ask for a ban on cutting off water, electricity and gas supplies. “It does not seem worthy to us that at this time there are people who are thrown out of the house or have their supplies cut off when we ask them not to leave the house and wash their hands,” say these sources, who insist that the debate on the appropriate legislative instrument is secondary:how , but what is important is what ”.
“After the amendment there has been too much noise and we have always been open to establishing measures,” reply sources from the Ministry of Transport, who add that during the budget negotiation “it was not put on the table that this was a sine qua non condition” .
The department headed by José Luis Ábalos, which is responsible for Housing, is open to expanding the situation of evictions to new cases of vulnerability as long as “there are reports from social services” that prove it. And stretching the measures for the duration of the pandemic restrictions, according to the sources consulted, will not be a stumbling block