Spanish rental housing owners’ association, which includes some of the foreign investment firms, criticised the proposed housing law, saying that rent controls would only discourage owners from building new rental units during a period of low supply.
As Pandemic Evictions Rise
The financial crisis that began in 2008 is at the root of the current unrest in Barcelona. There were many bankruptcies as a result of the economic downturn, which affected homeowners the most.
As a result of the crisis, many people were forced to flee their homes, and a protest movement arose to protect them from predatory lenders.
A large number of people lost their homes, however, and most are now renters. Activists claim that renters have borne the brunt of the crisis’ damage.
Tenant populations have increased by more than 40% in the last decade as foreclosures and other financial difficulties have made homeownership increasingly difficult. According to estimates by economists and Spanish media, private firms have amassed at least 40,000 properties in Spain.
The percentage of Spanish residents who own their own home, however, has remained high, at around 75%.
More than 1,800 apartments were purchased from the Madrid city government in 2013 by Blackstone, which is now thought to be Spain’s largest landlord.
Until the pandemic forced landlords to serve eviction notices to tenants who couldn’t pay their rent, these types of acquisitions remained largely unnoticed.
In the first three months of 2021, the government estimates that evictions of tenants in Spain increased by 14% over the same period in the previous year. This year’s second quarter saw an eightfold increase over the same period in 2020.
Tenants Who are Unable to Make their Rent Payments are being Evicted, and this has Made Many of them Quite Angry.
The fact that their landlord is a major Wall Street investment firm just adds fuel to their anger.
What if, however, I informed you that this was not occurring in New York City but rather in Spain, thousands of miles and even an ocean away? If I told you that the Spanish evictees aren’t taking it lying down, would you believe me?
During the epidemic, large American private equity firms have been evicting Spanish tenants from their properties because of the tenants’ inability to pay their rent. However, renters have started uniting against landlords, attorneys, and police officers who are attempting to evict them. Some renters have even squatted in vacant homes.
The group, which consists of both tenants and housing advocates, has been active in Spain for some time, protesting both the companies they accuse of profiting from the pandemic and the judicial system, which they say is biassed in favour of landlords in eviction cases.
After the global financial crisis began in 2008, a large investment firm dubbed Cerberus (after the three-headed dog that guards the underworld in Greek mythology) began buying cheap houses around Spain. Several American companies, including Cerberus, Blackstone, and Lone Star, have purchased thousands of properties across Europe.
When police officers and lawyers for private equity firms try to forcibly evict residents, members of War Against Cerberus step in. Group members occupy at other companies’ buildings as they are evicted from their own.
According to War Against Cerberus’s interview with The Times, dozens of families have moved into properties controlled by private equity corporations. Large companies feel the squatters’ influence in a measurable way, as removing squatters can take years of court time and cost millions of dollars in legal fees.
War Against Cerberus frequently documents their run-ins with the law and shares them on their social media accounts. Twitter is used by those who are fighting for the rights of evicted residents to organise a response and garner support.