Collective occupations: laboratories of housing against massive evictions.
One of the main symptoms of the economic crisis in the Spanish state has been a high increase in evictions due to non-payment of the mortgage: it is estimated that more than 170.000 families have been evicted since the beginning of the crisis in July 2008. In response to this, evicted people and support groups are now promoting the initiative of occupying housing blocks to prevent families are left without home.
The main solidarity group is the Mortgage Victim’s Plaftorm (PAH). PAH intensified since 2013 a campaign which reclaims the occupation of unused buildings owned by banks as a way of managing social housing in extreme cases, when the evicted families have nowhere to go.
There are now more than 15 buildings reoccupied by the PAH collectives in Catalonia. All these properties were owned by banks, and accumulated years of disuse. 15 housing blocks that now are shelter for more than 1000 people. In addition, other solidarity groups promote collective occupations too.
The reason for the expansion of this phenomenon is clear: more and more Spanish families are in extreme situation after eviction. The occupations also serve to put pressure on government and banks when negotiating for solutions. The main objective of these negotiations is, to achieve cancellation of the debt owed to the bank once families had left the house.
The strength of the group: Self-Management Laboratories
For many leftist sectors, occupied blocks transcend beyond the mere pursuit of achieving a cell ceiling and a floor. According to them, in the blocks is taking place an unprecedented social experiment: the buildings are laboratories of self-management for housing.
Sabadell is one of the Catalan cities where activists have more experience, with 3 occupied buildings. Each week, block incoming requests are decided in PAH’s assembly. The resident families are informed that it means also responsibilities with the social project the block. Residents are Spanish, Africans, Gypsies, South-American ... very different families with similar problems.
Then, while the housing system in Spain continues between collapse and hibernation, the period of mass evictions is being followed by one of alternatives. Civil society has moved ahead of institutions, and is no longer awaiting a response from them: now is time to take the initiative.