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Spain seeks evictions solution

November 10, 2012

Spanish politicians have pledged bipartisan steps to halt evictions after a woman mortgagor's suicide caused widespread anguish. Previously, a newsstand owner in Granada hung himself in anticipation of losing his home.

A card, candles and flowers lie close to where Amaia Egana, a 53-year-old woman, threw herself out of her fourth-story apartment window in the Basque Country as court officials came up the stairs to evict her on Friday (Photo: REUTERS/Vincent West)
Image: Reuters

Mortgage lender Kutxabank announced that it would suspend repossessions after Amaia Egana, a 53-year-old former Socialist councilor, jumped from her fourth-story window in the Basque Country as officials ascended the stairs to evict her on Friday.

Egana's death, the second eviction-related suicide in Spain in recent weeks, added urgency to an agreement reached Wednesday between the ruling conservative People's Party and the Socialists to seek a bipartisan deal over repossessions.

"No one should be without a home for not being able to pay," Socialist leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.

"We are living through things that no one likes to see, situations that are completely inhumane," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said hours after Egana's death. "I hope that on Monday we'll be able to talk about a temporary suspension of evictions for the most vulnerable families."

Banks blamed

Hundreds demonstrated in Madrid and Barakaldo Friday, with protesters blaming predatory lenders for the deaths. "Guilty! Guilty!" they chanted. "Shame! Shame!" Graffiti accusing financial institutions of murder and calling for an end to evictions also appeared on bank branches in the Basque Country.  

Spain has seen nearly 400,000 evictions since its property bubble burst in 2008. Unemployment reached 25 percent in the third quarter of this year, a record high, and the European Commission expects the economy to contract 1.4 percent the next two years as Spain remains mired in its second recession since the end of 2009.

Legislative changes pending

One legislative measure would grant grace periods. Rajoy said rules would not be retroactive, but Rubalcaba called for previous evictions to also be included. 

Last week, EU Advocate General Juliane Kokott issued a report concluding that Spanish legislation on evictions contradicts safeguards enacted in European consumer legislation. Europe's highest court will decide the matter. 

In addition to the deaths, two weeks ago an unemployed man in Burjassot, in the Valencia region, survived a jump from his balcony on the day his family was to be evicted.

mkg/ipj (Reuters, AP)