Ideas, strategies and projects that give rise to pilot projects. They tackle the challenges raised by the stakeholders involved and which are found in particular places in Barcelona or Medellín.
The PAH has now been operating for six years. Despite its short existence, it has taken part in more than 200 nodes of action involving people facing foreclosures and others supporting them; it has questioned Spanish mortgage legislation; it has denounced the role of the banks in the lead-up to the financial crisis; and it has helped thousands of families in Spain to find alternatives to evictions and social exclusion that were once unimaginable.
The global economic crisis that began to develop in 2008 resulted in a new social scenario which in Spain was made all the worse by the bursting of the property bubble. Public policies gradually turned homes into a business rather than ensuring they are a right guaranteed by law. At the same time, financial institutions exacerbated the bubble by granting risky mortgages. The main consequence of the combination of the global crisis and the bursting of the property bubble was evictions, which initially were a rare phenomenon but soon became daily news.
The PAH came into being in this situation in response to the lack of action on the government’s part to meet the needs of people affected by mortgages, and as a campaigning body to protest against unfair and anomalous legislation. To achieve its goals, three emergency measures were proposed: the halting of evictions till permanent solutions could be found; retroactive surrendering of the property in lieu of paying off the debt for those people unable to cover the mortgage on their home; and the creation of a stock of public rented housing consisting of foreclosed homes in the hands of the banks.
The “Social Work” campaign was set in motion to continue offering support to people who approached the PAH and had exhausted every possible channel for finding an effective solution to their housing problem. When negotiation with banks, the courts and the authorities is insufficient, civil disobedience action is considered on the grounds that it is a legitimate and necessary means to protect citizens’ rights. “Social Work” has been involved in the effort to squat embargoed buildings in order to rehouse evicted people or to force the financial institution concerned into negotiations intended to lead towards affordable social rents in keeping with the available income of affected families. More than 700 people have been rehoused in this manner and advances have been made towards the decriminalisation of squatting as an alternative to housing costs and the lack of a social rented housing market.