24 September 2015

A Spanish mayor's left turn on housing

Al Jazeera English

This month, Barcelona's new left-wing mayor Ada Colau announced a total of 60,000 euros in fines against three Spanish banks for the possession of houses that have stood empty for more than two years. The fines were for 12 properties located in neighbourhoods most affected by the ongoing housing crisis, but Colau has promised this is only the start.
Across Spain, homes are being repossessed at the rate of at least 90 a day, down from the 500 daily evictions the Associated Press reported in 2012. According to the most recent census analysis by the national statistics institute, there were nearly 3.5 million empty homes in the country as of 2011 - about 14 percent of the total housing stock.
For those of us accustomed to seeing financial institutions rewarded for their unhelpful behaviour, the crackdown in Barcelona may seem rather unusual. But the role of financial institutions in the misfortune of countless Spaniards can't be downplayed.
Following a period of frenetic bank-backed construction, land speculation, wildly overvalued property prices, and the proliferation of subprime mortgages, the Spanish property bubble burst in 2008, giving way to five years of recession and austerity measures. The punishment for fiscal recklessness was meted out to the poorest echelons of society. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.