Spain suspends home evictions for most needy

Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:09am EST
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By Sonya Dowsett

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain approved measures on Thursday to help the most needy families facing eviction, a growing problem in the recession-bound nation highlighted last week by the suicide of a woman whose home bailiffs came to seize.

The government said it would suspend evictions for two years for vulnerable homeowners who can no longer pay back debt, including those with small children, the disabled and long-term unemployed.

"This is an emergency response to mitigate the effects of the worst of the economic crisis," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said at a weekly press conference.

In a country where a million homes lie empty, the legacy of a decade-long housing boom that crashed in 2008, Spain will also increase the amount of social housing available at low rents for people who have lost their homes, she said.

Spanish banks, many of which are about to receive the first funds from a 100 billion euro ($127 billion) credit line from a European bailout, have repossessed 400,000 properties since 2008, though not all of these are residential.

The trend is growing, with 50,000 repossessions in the first half of the year, compared with 77,000 for the whole of 2011.

Though most evictions following the real estate crash involved immigrants, more Spaniards are now losing their homes, experts say, as unemployment benefit runs out and family networks fray in the worst recession in half a century.

"Over the last year, more and more Spaniards have been affected rather than immigrants who have less family support," said Mauricio Valiente, a lawyer who helps evicted people.   Continued...

Members of the Stop Evictions movement enter the home of Gisela Bajo (unseen) as they wait for the judicial commission to evict her from her home in Valencia November 15, 2012. Bajo, mother of a 13-year-old daughter, is unemployed and has no income. Spain's main political parties started negotiations about eviction law reform on Monday after a homeowner's suicide provoked public fury and accusations that politicians and banks are complicit in de facto "murder". The signs read, "Stop evictions". REUTERS/Heino Kalis