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Spanish government struggles to respond to home eviction suicides

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Mejía spent most of her two decades in Europe working as a nanny in Britain and Spain. The economic crisis and her health made employment slippery. She might have been one of the few who would have benefitted, but the decree is not retroactive.

The government also refused to change the law to allow more indebted families to transfer back the property in lieu of payment. Under Spanish law, mortgage holders remain liable for outstanding debt even after eviction.

Few are happy with the decree. Banks, those awaiting evictions, civil society activists, and other political parties have all criticized the measure. Nearly 80 percent of Spaniards and 62 percent of supporters of the ruling party think the government decree is insufficient, according to a poll released this week.

“Almost nobody will meet the criteria,” says José Mario Ruiz, spokesman of the Mortgage Victims’ Platform, the civil society group leading demands for a more “humane” eviction law. His office was crammed by dozens of people, most of them foreign-born, awaiting evictions this year during a meeting to explain the government’s new decree.

“Most of you won’t benefit from this law. It’s a Band-Aid. All you can do is fight, fight, fight and demand a real solution from the government,” one of the speakers said amid bouts of anger and muted whimpers.

Eviction reform

There have been some 400,000 evictions orders since 2007, according to a report put together by a group of Spain’s top judges. The government claims that only a small fraction of the evictions, as low as 1 percent, are mortgage-related – bank-driven evictions of main family residences of those in more precarious situations.

The majority of them were not homes, and most homes were second or vacation properties, although the government also acknowledges it has no data on how many needy families have lost their homes.

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