The Spanish government has published a draft bill for housing that shows how it plans to tackle Spain’s ‘housing crisis’ with rent controls and increased protection against eviction that squatter mafias will know how to exploit to their advantage.
Last Tuesday 26th of October the Council of Ministers finally approved a housing bill after months of infighting between the Socialists and their junior partner, the hard-left Podemos party. The bill must now be approved by the Spanish parliament.
Presenting the bill, the Minister for Transport, Mobility, and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, said it will “configure housing as the fifth pillar of the welfare state,” and provide a “powerful tool in the fight against inequality, marginalisation, and exclusion.” Private property rights are not high on the agenda.
Amongst other measures like rent controls, and forcing private developers to reserve 30% of units on new developments for social housing, which critics say will reduce the supply of homes for everyone, as has happened in Barcelona, the bill makes evictions harder by requiring a social-services report, and alternative housing made available for ‘vulnerable people’ before an eviction order can be executed. Making evictions harder makes squatting easier, and professional squatters are very good at exploiting the law and system in their favour, whilst owners shoulder the cost.
Of course, the government’s intention is not to make it easier for squatter mafias to extort money from owners, but that is what happens in practise. Squatter gangs take advantage of badly-drafted laws meant to protect some people from eviction, and the way the system works, to hold properties to ransom. As a result, owners are better off paying the ransom than relying on the state to enforce their property rights. The extortion is game-on.
Nobody likes the idea of families being evicted from their homes because they have fallen on hard times, but a system that facilitates the extortion of owners is no solution. The government is both transferring the cost of providing social housing onto private owners whilst encouraging the extortion of private owners by criminal gangs. It undermines faith in the system, and forces tax-payers to turn to extrajudicial solutions, which is why there are so many anti-okupa outfits in Spain.
But the radical left are now calling the shots when it comes to Spain’s housing policies, as demonstrated by this bill. They argue the law already protects homeowners from squatters (which is true in theory, but not in practise), they oppose all evictions, and flatly deny the existence of squatter extortion-gangs, despite all the evidence.
As a result Spain has a big and growing problem with squatters. If you listen to Spanish radio stations aimed at middle-aged audiences almost every ad break includes at least one advert for alarms to protect homes against squatters. Do you ever hear adverts for anti-squatter alarms back home?
Spain incentivises squatting, and this bill will reinforce the message that squatter mafias have nothing to fear from the state, and make the problem worse. That said, the risk of squatters to second-home owners is probably very low, so there is no reason to panic. But if squatters do get in, you have a nightmare on your hands. It’s a low-probability, high-cost risk that all owners should take sensible precautions to mitigate at a reasonable price.