Insight: Spain's jobless immigrants take on banks over mortgages

Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:25am EDT
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By Fiona Ortiz

MADRID (Reuters) - Every Tuesday evening dozens of homeowners who cannot pay their mortgages gather in a cramped community center near Madrid's main bullring to discuss strategy to fight their banks.

Newcomers, many of them immigrants from South America, take turns speaking about how close they are to eviction. They tell of losing their jobs, defaulting on their loans and receiving court notice saying they will be kicked out.

Veterans of the Platform of Mortgage Victims tell the new arrivals they will probably lose their homes but they also provide legal and psychological support to people willing to move out in exchange for the bank forgiving their loan.

Evictions, up to 200 a day, have become a symbol of Spain's 5-year economic crisis, started by a collapse in the housing and construction industry that put millions out of work.

But the Platform has managed to suspend or delay dozens of the procedures in the last six months by protesting outside foreclosed homes and helping people negotiate with their banks.

The highly public "Stop Evictions" campaign has fed a wave of defiance against banks and the new government has promised relief for borrowers who took loans during a long housing boom.

Many members of the Platform are Ecuadorians who moved to Spain during the late 1990s and early 2000s to work in the construction industry, unaware it was about to go bust.

When the day arrived for Patricia Tapia's eviction in February, she took her children to daycare and waited in her apartment for a court official. The 28-year-old Ecuadorian's unemployment benefits had run out and she stopped paying her mortgage four years ago.   Continued...

Kelly Herrera covers her face as she sits in the main room of her home after learning that her eviction had been suspended in Madrid in this March 13, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Sergio Perez