Claiming the uncertainty over future rental prices and the increased dislocations that often accompany real estate developments, as well as the intimidation and eviction tactics used to gain control over their properties, demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand that the government pursue viable alternatives for returning households to their homes.
“We don’t want to stay where we are unless we have alternatives. This is not an administrative problem — this is a national issue,” said Hector Hernandez, who coordinates a group at the National Theater in Madrid called “822” (822 is the number of households evicted in 2018, the first year that data was broken down by department). The group, composed of citizens with extensive social networks, is calling for a comprehensive response from the government to the current epidemic of evictions.
“Evictions affect women, LGBTI people, those with special needs and people from different communities,” Hernandez says. “There are different kinds of eviction: the direct eviction by legal authorities, the informal eviction by neighborhood residents, the political eviction of direct neighbors, and the laundered eviction where neighbors work together to try to oust those who are the most vulnerable.”
Related Image Expand / Contract (Ali Bustamante)
“Families are being thrown out by landlords because they have a change of property,” says María Garcia-Arias, president of the Together Group in Madrid. “They take out long-term residents, who have an established presence in a community. They don’t seek to claim tax revenues.”
Garcia-Arias compares the evictions to “bombing a war zone” and implies that there are plenty of options within the national institutions for those homeowners who would like to return home, whether they’re staying in their apartments or out of the country.
Without housing assistance, most are facing a very bleak future, especially for young people who no longer have access to government health care, and who cannot provide rent security to pay for private doctors.
“I never expected I would have to leave. I’m always going to cry thinking about how devastated my family is,” says Isabel Gonzalez, a young mother currently living in a shelter. “What is much worse is how alone I feel. Everything comes back to my housing.”
Liam McHugh is a London-based writer, editor and reportorial freelancer. He has written for The Daily Telegraph, National Geographic Adventure, Fast Company, Travel + Leisure, Wall Street Journal Asia, Wall Street Journal, CIO and Fortune. He is the co-founder of the non-profit landmine and ordnance clearance group Mosquito Mine. Follow him on Twitter: @liamhughmhugh