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Express squatter eviction project divides politicians in Spain

Two Catalan parties clash over reform that leftists see as benefiting banks and “vulture funds”

Protest against the lack of social housing in Barcelona.
Protest against the lack of social housing in Barcelona.

A Spanish congressional committee has narrowly approved a proposal for legal reform introduced by a Catalan party to speed up squatter evictions – something that is notoriously difficult under current Spanish law. The initiative passed inside the Justice Committee in a 19-to-18 vote, with opposition from leftist parties.

It will now move to the Senate, where it will pass without trouble thanks to the Popular Party (PP) majority, and return to Congress for a final vote.

The reform does not contain specific measures against the extortionists, just against the occupiers

PSOE statement

The reform was introduced by the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCAT) – the party of ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont – as a way to protect private property from illegal squatters.

The reform will only affect properties whose owners are “private individuals, non-profits and public agencies that own social housing.” It leaves out real estate held by banks and investment funds after opponents of the bill said it would open the door for the latter to request express evictions of at-risk families.

But the Socialist Party (PSOE), the anti-establishment Unidos Podemos and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) continued to oppose the plan, saying that it makes no provisions for alternative housing for vulnerable families who are occupying homes.

In a statement targeting banks and other financial entities that hold empty housing, the PSOE said that the final text of the reform “does not contain specific measures against the extortionists, just against the occupiers.”

When the new rules go into effect, squatters will be served with an eviction notice and told to justify ownership of the property through a title deed, or show lack of one on the part of the claimant. If no sufficient justification is provided by the squatters, the court will order immediate repossession of the home with no chance of appeals.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau in a file photo of the days when she headed the anti-eviction group PAH.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau in a file photo of the days when she headed the anti-eviction group PAH. Reuters

The PDeCAT representative in the commission, Lourdes Ciuró, said that the initiative does not seek to aid “vulture funds or any other organization that might speculate with housing.”

The text also considers contacting “the relevant public services in social policy affairs.” No alternative housing is guaranteed for evicted individuals in vulnerable situations, but the bill tells public agencies they have an obligation to have “agile coordination and cooperation measures in place to prevent situations of residential exclusion.”

Catalan rift

The initiative has widened the gap between two Catalan nationalist parties, the PDeCAT and the far-left CUP, whose support held up Puigdemont’s government until Madrid took control of Catalan affairs in late October, following the unilateral independence declaration.

A regional deputy for CUP, Natàlia Sànchez, accused Puigdemont’s party of working to “reinforce the privileges of the elite that speculates with property.”

She said that it is “of the utmost seriousness for the PDeCAT to be leading policies that go against the popular classes and turn housing into material for profit and speculation.”

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, herself a former anti-eviction activist, was also critical of a reform that she said will “create a new wave of evictions.”

“It’s very easy to legislate in favor of evictions, and then make local governments deal with all the consequences,” she said.

English version by Susana Urra.

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