The Local Police watch the works to wall up the entrances to a squatted house. | M. À. Cañellas

Every day two houses are squatted in the Balearic Islands. Squatting has skyrocketed in the second year of the pandemic. According to statistics from the State Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of the Interior a total of 407 squats were registered in the Balearic Islands up to September 2021, an increase of 73.9% over the same period last year.

This is the highest percentage increase in Spain, where the average has grown by 18%, a figure far removed from the Balearic statistics. For example, in Catalonia the increase was 9 % and in Extremadura, 8 % during the same period.

For reference Catalonia is the community with the highest number of squatted houses. In the last five years, home invasions there grew by 68%, a figure lower than that of the Balearic Islands in a single year.

The only two communities with percentages similar to those of the Balearic Islands are Murcia (69.6%) and Castilla-León (62.6%). The increased figures are most probably caused by the Covid pandemic. The healthcare situation brought with it a severe economic crisis during 2020, with a drop in GDP of more than 17 % and with thousands of workers surviving thanks to ERTE.

Most of these squats are in private homes, but public administrations have also had squats in some buildings.

In the case of Ibavi, for example, action has been taken against 120 families who have squatted in many apartments owned by Ibavi. As a result 62 apartments have already been recovered, either by police intervention, by a judge's decision or by abandonment of the dwelling due to the threat of a complaint.

There are still 58 squatted apartments on which there is a lawsuit in the courts. The head of Ibavi, Cristina Ballester has assured that the Government acts against those who abuse their situation. She reiterated that these actions are intended to recover a public property that is squatted by people who, in many cases, are part of squatting mafias. The police have even found marijuana plantations in some of these homes when they were finally able to gain access to the interior. "The families who have real housing problems are looked for a solution with the help of the social services," she insists.

The head of Ibavi said that part of this problem comes from the 2011-2015 legislature, with the arrival of José Ramón Bauzá to the Government and with Gabriel Company as Minister of Public Works. In the midst of the economic and housing crisis the Government agreed not to carry out any evictions, which according to Ballester could help the disadvantaged but increased the rogue behaviour of others.