Madrid.—Spain's crisis and the country's peculiar laws have left several million homes empty and hundreds of thousands of families with enormous debts.

Many of those unable to pay their mortgage end up squatting.
Since 2007, there have been more than 350'000 evictions as a result of unpaid mortgages. Many of these have left entire families without homes. This is despite the fact that there are six million empty homes across Spain, most of them owned by banks.

Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing for the UN, recommended in vain to the Spanish government in 2008 that it take steps to lower the price of housing.

Another suggestion was that the government increase the number of social leasing homes, which in 2009 was 1 percent of homes, five times less than in Italy and 35 times less than in Holland.

Since 2005, social collectives such as the Platform of Adequate Housing and V de Vivienda had been demanding that the government take measures.
In 2009, the Platform of People Affected by Mortgage Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, or PAH asked the government to ensure the cancellation of families debts on giving their home back to the bank, and in November, 2010, it decided to take direct action to stop evictions by gathering activists in the homes of those affected. “We knew that it was a problem because people were over-indebted paying off their homes. But what we didnt know was that the law can put Spanish people in debt for life,” says Ada Colau, one of the founders of the PAH.

Today, more than 160 evictions have been stopped, and the PAH has negotiated with the banks for hundreds of supportive leases for the affected families.

In recent months, the PAH has been bolstered by the involvement of the 15-M, or indignadosmovement although many within the movement are not keen on that latter moniker, which started in the spring of 2011.