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EVICTIONS CRISIS IN SPAIN

Madrid mayor intervenes to put a stop to more than 2,000 home evictions

New leftist city leader Manuela Carmena makes pledge to group of tenants

They have been fighting to keep their low-rent apartments from being sold to a vulture fund

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena with representatives from "Yo no me voy", an association of low-rent tenants.
Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena with representatives from "Yo no me voy", an association of low-rent tenants. EFE

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena, of the left-wing bloc Ahora Madrid, on Wednesday made a pledge to stop city-owned subsidized housing from being sold to investment funds.

The announcement was made after Carmena met with representatives of Yo no me voy, an association of low-rent tenants who have been fighting for years to prevent eviction from their homes.

Manuela Carmena said that the city’s new policy is based on the notion that the right to housing is “a fundamental pillar of people’s lives.”

The day we were dreaming of, and which we fought for during the last three years, has arrived at last”

Yo no me voy association

These more than 220 families rent apartments from the municipal housing corporation, the EMVS, which first tried to sell off the buildings to an investment fund. That sale fell through, but the city has since been trying to take back the housing units, presumably with the goal of finding a new buyer.

A recent report by the Treasury Ministry found that six out of every 10 evictions in the Spanish capital are taking place in public housing units that have been sold in recent years by the Madrid regional government and City Hall to investment groups, which are often referred to as vulture funds.

Scared into signing

Diego Fonseca

Amelia, 71, received a life-changing letter in July 2013. The EMVS told her she had to sign a new contract in 15 days if she wanted to remain in her apartment on Calatrava street, where she has been a tenant since 2007.

“It was horrible. I got scared because I thought they were going to kick me out. I got scared and went running to the EMVS. And there they gave me a new contract that makes me pay twice as much,” says Amelia, who now pays €230 every month, €140 more than she was paying before.

This privatization drive was spurred by the Popular Party, which, until the arrival of Ahora Madrid, had controlled Madrid City Hall for the last quarter of a century. While the stated goal of the EMVS is to provide affordable housing to low-income residents, its shaky financial situation led local authorities to try to improve its liquidity by selling off part of its property portfolio.

But the new leftist administration, which emerged from the May 24 elections, promised to reverse the trend and do its best to stop home evictions throughout the city.

Carmena’s promise that public housing will not be sold off to private investors extends to 2,086 apartments scattered throughout the city.

“The day we were dreaming of, and which we fought for during the last three years, has arrived at last,” said the association in a new post on its website. “Mayor Carmena has made a commitment to Yo no me voy not to sell or encourage evictions in any of the 40 buildings.”

Sign here or face the consequences

In 2012, tenants received a visit from social workers informing them that their homes were going to be sold to an investment fund, Renta Corporación. The city offered them similar apartments in other city districts. But the tenants, 40 percent of whom are elderly people, refused to move.

The EMVS then started sending them letters saying that their old contract would not be renewed, and to come in a sign a new one or face legal consequences.

“Housing is a fundamental pillar in people’s lives”

Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena

Many of them got scared and did. But the old contracts are protected under Decree 100/86, which establishes that the terms will automatically be renewed every two years if tenants continue to meet the low-income conditions established in the contract.

The new contracts dropped this clause, opening the door to sudden rent hikes and contract terminations. Of the 220 families, more than 50 became involved in legal suits over their apartments, either initiated by themselves or by the EMVS.

All these lawsuits are now being placed on hold and the city will analyze a new type of contract that will give tenants the stability they need, without feeling under threat from eviction or investment funds.

“Each case will be analyzed separately,” said municipal sources.

English version by Susana Urra.