What’s the Housing Office?

The project ‘The Housing office’ in Madrid began as a response to the problems people were having with housing and the intolerable situation which hundreds, thousands if not millions of people are suffering at this very moment: those who have been thrown out of their homes yet still have to carry on with mortgage payments; many people who have to give the best part of their salary to pay a rent or an outrageous mortgage; the homeless; people who have never been eligible for a home; tenants who are harassed by owners who do not want to recognise their longstanding rights for a low rent.

Housing problems, the reasons:

The reasons are multiple but can nevertheless be summarized in one word: speculation. Through speculation, 1% of the population is able to control society (commonly known as THOSE UP TOP), and accumulate enormous amounts of wealth. This is done by increasing house prices, high interest loans, continuous evictions, and longlasting debt.

These fortunes administer banks and construction companies and it is these same fortunes that finance and guide the coalition PPSOE (PP right wing party + PSOE socialist party) who provide tailor made laws to guarantee investments while convincing the population that only property can give you rights. This extends the belief in those below (we the people), that you only have rights if you own property. So, when the housing bubble burst, PPSOE “covered holes” by handing over to the speculators, mainly the banks, the necessary funds to carry on with business as usual (funds coming from cuts in social expenditure, as we see on a daily basis).

The Housing office is created to give answers to and to help those suffering the consecuences of this fraud and to serve as a support while people learn to use their individual rights. It is also a tool which can be used in the quest for a transformation of those outrageous laws which support this social tragedy.

Down to basics: (Take and do rather than ask and wait)

The urgency of the situation has forced the Housing Office to decide not to wait for those who caused the problem to solve it. We have therefore started to work, adopting three lines of action all of which attempt to unite those who wish to exercise their right to decent housing.
Counselling body: From here information is given on the possibilities and consecuences of taking over abandoned buildings, promoting cooperation in this type of action and a collective defense of the recovered buildings. At the same time, the counselling body will encourage the study of the housing problem and help with the formation of collectives, underlining their responsibilities and the different solutions.

Solutions for temporary shelter: As a result of all the above mentioned and the seriousness of the situation, the project contemplates the establishment of designated areas for temporary shelter for those in need.

Helping to expand: To support those who are cooperating in local neighbourhoods in rehousing projects by using uninhabited buildings/houses in the hands of banks and agencies.
Social transformation: (As long as there are unjust laws we will have to fight against them in order to change them)

The provision of a public ‘houses to rent’ scheme made up of all those houses which have been abandoned by speculators. Given that the banks and housing agencies have an abundance of abandoned homes in their possession, it is necessary to apply the measures already approved in other European countries to ensure the availability of these buildings for rent at a price not superior to 30% of a person’s income.

Backdated dation in payment and immediate halt in foreclosures of those families with no financial resources or at risk of social exclusion, having no alternative shelter: It is inconceivable that this mortgage fraud could end up dragging millions of families in this country into social marginalization. Laws and tribunals avoid placing any blame on banks for their responsability in the loans given out or for the inflated price of houses which increased their profits. Furthermore, after the crisis, banks have bought homes at half the price they fixed themselves, putting people who only wanted a home out on the street with unpayable debt. We demand that the handing over of the house should settle the debt and that the victims should not pay for the culprits. At the same time, foreclosures should be stopped for those people with no alternatives, as would
be the case of first time home buyers since it is understood that a house as a basic right takes priority over the private property of a bank.

Penalization of speculation, decriminalization of occupation: It is inadmissible that in a time when corruption is rife, when the social model leaves millions of homes empty and millions of people in the street, that the political model permits the limitation of power to prosecute the big guys (those UP TOP), while it is a criminal offence to occupy an abandoned house. 15 years ago, when speculation in the housing market rocketed, a new reform was introduced (1995) making it illegal to occupy an abandoned house. If laws were meant to be an obstacle to greed, this is yet further proof that those at the top are able to change them to suit themselves as they are the ones who profit from speculation. We therefore also demand the elimination of the offence of appropriation of abandoned property from the Criminal Code whether it be for housing or social purposes and the establishment and fulfillment of strong legal punishment for those who are found guilty of corruption and speculation leaving houses without people and people without houses.

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