The Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) of Barcelona celebrated this last Sunday, February 22, its 6th anniversary, and it did so with a protest march, music, and the occupation of a block of apartments owned by the spain’s “bad” bank, the SAREB. With this last occupation, it comes to 13 the number of SAREB apartment buildings that the PAH maintains for re-housing people confronted by difficulties of mortgage payments and evictions.
In Catalonia, there are some 500,000 empty homes, 80,000 of them in Barcelona alone. For the PAH, any building that has been payed for with public money, which is the case of those recuperated in the spanish government’s bailout of national banks, should revert to the community as a common good. And thus its demand that the houses owned by the SAREB bank be given over to social use. As long as that does occur, the PAH defends the continuing politics of occupations to house those who have nowhere to live.
Over the last 6 years, the PAH has garnered very many small victories. Since 2009, it has changed the collective imaginary around the theme of evictions, breaking with the stigma of poverty and denouncing the politics of banks and public administrations on housing issue. Its activism, in conjunction with other movements, most notably 15M, has questioned and challenged the primacy of private property both legally and “culturally”, and has promoted a generalised politics of direct action as a response to oppression and exploitation.
It has, during this same time, recuperated some 33 apartment blocks from banks and housed over 2,500 people, along with stopping thousands of evictions through the country. It has also managed to have mortgage debts annulled, as well transforming housing for sale into affordable rental housing.
The PAH’s struggle is today to create a stock of public housing to make real the fundamental right to dignified housing.