• Spain edition
 
Ada, 40, fights tough for Spain's evictees
Spain's housing crisis has left thousands of people without homes and thousands of homes with people. Photo: AFP

Ada, 40, fights tough for Spain's evictees

Published: 22 Mar 2014 09:02 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Mar 2014 09:02 GMT+01:00

As spokeswoman of the PAH, a grassroots movement campaigning to protect ruined homeowners, she has taken on Spain's banks and politicians, winning an accolade from the European Parliament.

That honour crowned four years of abrasive work in which she stood in protest on the doorsteps of evictees trying to stop the police and bailiffs getting in. Back home, it angered the ruling Popular Party (PP).

"The PP went after me. There were some difficult weeks. They called me a terrorist. I received death threats," she told AFP in a cafe in her native Barcelona.

The European Parliament in 2013 awarded its European Citizen's Prize to the PAH, the Platform for Mortgage Victims, after the movement successfully pushed for Spanish lawmakers to approve a housing reform.

Colau has a motherly manner and soft features, but a sharp tongue for those she blames for Spain's recent years of economic hardship, brought on by the collapse of a housing boom in 2008.

"Up until 2008, Spanish ministers were saying that an apartment was the most secure investment of all," she said.

"It was lies, and the sickest thing of all is that when it all blew up, they accused the people of having lived beyond their means."

Since its founding in 2009, crowds of PAH activists have gathered on the doorsteps of families to block bailiffs and police from evicting them.

The group claims to have blocked about 1,000 evictions and helped another 1,000 people get a roof over their head by occupying empty buildings.

Courting arrest, the PAH's followers have occupied the premises of banks they accuse of abusive mortgage-lending and staged noisy protests outside politicians' homes.

Between 2008 and the peak of the crisis in 2012, a quarter of a million seizure orders were served for properties in Spain, the PAH says. Seven out of 10 of those were to evict people from their principle residences.

Despite this, last year there were 3.4 million homes standing empty in Spain, left over from the building bust, according to the National Statistics Institute.

"The housing problem is crucial. It is one of the main causes of social insecurity, but it is not for a lack of housing," Colau said.

"The resources are there but they are badly distributed."

Spanish law allows banks to pursue a defaulting homeowner to pay back the whole of a mortgage loan even after surrendering the property, if the value of the home has fallen.

The PAH campaigned hard for a law to allow ruined homeowners to write off their mortgage debts by surrendering the property, and to guarantee social housing at affordable rent.

It handed a petition with 1.4 million signatures to parliament, which put the popular motion to a debate.

A version of the reform was eventually approved by the PP-dominated parliament in April 2013, but with so many modifications that Colau and the PAH were left disappointed.

Spanish banks received 41 billion euros ($56 billion) of eurozone loans to protect the country's finance sector from collapse as they try to dispose of the unsold properties they own.

"Those properties should be rented as social housing instead of being left empty and falling in to disrepair," Colau said.

"Now the banks have been bailed out, you would think they might give something back, socially," she added.

"But the banks that were bailed out are the ones carrying out the most evictions."

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Hospital turns kids' MRI into space odyssey
HP has used the latest in latex printing to decorate the once bland and lifeless walls and equipment with huge images of stars, planets and astronauts. Photo: Sant Joan de Déu Hospital

Hospital turns kids' MRI into space odyssey

A Barcelona hospital has been able to reduce general anaesthetic among its child patients needing MRI scans by 18 percent thanks to an innovative new scheme that relaxes them. READ  

Madrid mayor appoints soon-to-retire cop chief
Botella's new appointment as chief inspector is retiring in October and has three weeks of holiday to take before then. Photo:FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Madrid mayor appoints soon-to-retire cop chief

Madrid mayor Ana Botella has been stood up by fire, police and ambulance personnel on her visit to their new joint headquarters because of her "disrespectful" appointment of a new police chief who has just weeks in the job before he retires. READ  

Spain welcomes Scots' 'no' but Catalans unfazed
A Catalan supporter of the 'Yes' campaign holds up a banner outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Photo: Lesley Martin/AFP

Spain welcomes Scots' 'no' but Catalans unfazed

The Spanish government on Friday welcomed Scotland's "No" vote on independence, but Catalans set on breaking away from Spain vowed to push on for their own ballot on self-rule. READ  

Malaga gang rape accuser: 'I made it up'
A "selfie" taken at the time of the alleged rape showed the girl relaxing with three of the men on a fairground ride safety mat. File photo: Luis Guerrero

Malaga gang rape accuser: 'I made it up'

A woman who accused five men of raping her in a Spanish fairground in August has admitted to a judge that the sex was consensual and that she invented the rape claim to prevent video footage of the sex being made public. READ  

Shark attacks boy on Spanish beach
Witnesses reported that the boy was bitten by a blue shark, a common Mediterranean species. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mark Conlin/NMFS

Shark attacks boy on Spanish beach

A 16-year-old boy playing in the sea at the popular Catalan tourist town of Salou this month needed thirty stitches after being bitten on the hand by a shark. READ  

Catalonia crisis
Madrid ready to fight as Catalonia 'legalizes' vote
Artur Mas will not call the November 9th referendum on self-rule immediately after the “consultation” bill is passed. Photo: Pierre Philippe Marcou/AFP

Madrid ready to fight as Catalonia 'legalizes' vote

Spain’s central government will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting on Saturday or Sunday if Catalonia’s regional parliament approves the “consultation” law on the referendum on Friday, a move it hopes will make a possible independence vote more legal. READ  

Not happy: Pharrell Williams axes Spain tour
The singer and style icon's song 'Happy' topped the charts in Spain but fans will now miss out on the chance to hear it live. Photo: KEVIN WINTER / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Not happy: Pharrell Williams axes Spain tour

The American star's promoter announced on Friday that concerts planned for Barcelona and Madrid in October have been axed due to scheduling issues. READ  

95 percent of Spaniards prefer texting to talking
The Facebook-owned WhatsApp was the favourite messaging app of 98 per cent of those surveyed. Photo: Flickr/Adam Fagen

95 percent of Spaniards prefer texting to talking

A mobile industry survey has revealed that the vast majority of Spaniards are no longer the talkative and up-close communicators they were once known to be. READ  

Legionnaire's disease kills two more in Spain
Legionnaire's disease is a lung infection caused by the legionella bacteria. It is not contagious but can multiply in water and air conditioning systems. File Photo: MANFRED ROHDE / HELMHOLTZ-ZENTRUM

Legionnaire's disease kills two more in Spain

Four people have died from an outbreak of the lung infection Legionnaire's disease in northeastern Spain, regional health authorities said on Thursday. READ  

Judges 'can't tell scruffy cops from criminals'
Who's who? Police officers in Zaragoza have reacted badly to allegations that judges can't tell if they're crims or cops. Photo: Emilio Naranjo/AFP

Judges 'can't tell scruffy cops from criminals'

An internal police memo in the Spanish city of Zaragoza has infuriated officers by ordering them to improve their personal cleanliness, cover their tattoos and stop wearing earrings because local judges have complained of the "difficulty in telling the police and the accused apart" in court. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Top 10: best Spanish movies of all time
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
National
Gravedigger suspended for corpse photo gaffe
Society
Named: the best city to live in Spain
National
Catalonia's 'Diada': 5 things you need to know
Travel
Top ten amazing activities in Tenerife
National
Spain opens door to ban on burqas
Travel
Top ten: best bike rides in Spain
Travel
Spain to reopen 'world's most dangerous walk': The Camino del Rey
National
'Catalonia could be the shock Spain needs'
National
Office slang: Top ten Spanish expressions
Sport
Think you know Spanish football? Try these amazing facts
International
Australia set to welcome young Spanish workers
Opinion
Is tourism destroying Barcelona?
Society
Fashion fail: Zara pulls plug on 'Holocaust shirt' for kids
National
Man hurt as friend swaps ice bucket for plane
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
Politics
Spain 'would block independent Scotland from joining EU'
International
Spanish police mistake Morocco's king for people smuggler
What's On
What's on in Spain: September
Society
Miss Spain comes out of closet on Instagram
Travel
Top ten: Spain's best natural swimming pools
Property
'Dying' town flogs off land for €200 to woo new blood
National
Gays to blame for Spain's trillion euro debt: senator
Society
Spain's anti-rape guidelines: 1) Close your curtains
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,666
jobs available