The Spanish subprime crisis
Spain, once one of the most promising economies in Europe faced in the fall of 2007 the effects of the economic crisis. The mighty house of cards in what the Spanish real estate sector became started falling apart following the American supreme mortgage crisis and the increase of the interest rates dictated by the European Central Bank. Thus, generating an endless queue of foreclosures in the Spanish courts and dragging the country to an unprecedented economic crisis since democracy was restored after Franco's regime.
In the year 2000, the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar, with the support of the Catalan nationalist political party Convergencia y Unio, liberated the real estate market by law casually two years before establishing the Euro as the only official currency in the EU. This situation combined with the entrance of new consumers in the real estate market, mainly “boomers”, the newly arrived immigrants, and the low interest rates of the Euro, and the ease of banks to sell mortgages for 100% of the value of the property or more, triggered a heavy investment in the construction sector as well as a possible stronghold to laundry money from the old national currency to the Euro. (In 2006 the circulation of 500€ bills was nine times larger than in 2002, and despite the Bank of Spain said that it responded on Bank demands, the Tax department decided to increase the control over this kind of bills).
According to Idealista.com, the inter-annual increases of real estate prices from 2000 to 2007 were between 10% and 20% per year, these increases created a vicious circle of investment in the housing and construction sector creating true pharaonic construction sites like the “Residential Francisco Hernando” in Seseña, barely 50 Km south of Madrid.
With the arrival of the “credit crunch” to the Spanish economy and the increasing interest rates from the ECB in 2006, the default payment of mortgage installments augmented and, as a collateral damage, there was a boom in the unemployment rates as the construction sector employed a great number of workers.
Foreclosures rocketed from 5,000 approximately during the 4th trimester of 2007 to 27,000 approx. on the 1st trimester of 2010. Despite foreclosures decreased during 2013, reaching 17,009 in the third trimester of 2013 due to the temporary measures of the government, everything points to an increase in the number of foreclosures and evictions in the next months/years, in part related to the end of mortgage payment moratoriums that were negotiated with the affected citizens following the last law change.
This economic situation triggered several social responses, one of the most important ones is the Mortgage Affected Platform, which appeared in 2009, to defend their rights and fight against the increasing number of foreclosures and evictions. The platform managed to trigger media interest in covering evictions as well as creating a social network to help and assess foreclosure victims. Seemingly they promoted a Popular Legislative Initiative that was discussed in parliament and dumped by the ruling government party. Other sectors, as the political opposition, organizations, and certain collectives in the police or the judicial body, have also grown consciousness about the magnitude of the problem and try to apply different measures to ease the situation. This feature combines the testimonies of foreclosure victims and some key people who have worked to find a better way around the real estate crisis, particularly regarding the mortgage and foreclosure system
By Xabier Mikel Laburu
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