In a statement widely circulated on social networks, the Vallecas PAH expressed anger at the new councilwoman’s statements on housing: “Ahora Madrid has started its housing policy off on the wrong foot, with housing being one of the main priorities of the new party, signaling one of the most urgent and important areas concerning the population.
“Despite the fact that among the five initial emergency measures scheduled to be carried out within the first one hundred days of the new government, the first was a moratorium on evictions, today, we read in the newspaper that Housing City Councilwoman Marta Higueras states, ‘The City cannot stop the evictions.’ For the public, this declaration is politically unacceptable. It is a question of will and force: the evictions can be stopped and rents can be negotiated with authorities, banks or the court.”
The statement spread throughout social networks in response to Higuera’s statement. Soon after its release, other platforms added their support. PAH also questioned the new mayor, Manuela Carmena, who met with the banks before meeting with the social platforms that have been fighting for years against evictions.
Can We or Can We Not Stop Them?
“If a judge says you have to leave, you have to leave. What we are going to do is alleviate these situations … people will know where to call and what to do,” (Marta Higueras, housing councilwoman from Ahora Madrid).
Ahora Madrid’s program raised among its main proposals the suspension of evictions. However, as soon as she took office, Carmena said the program of Ahora Madrid was only “a set of suggestions of which not all could be understood as an active program.”
Both Carmena and her housing councilwoman Higuera said it was impossible to stop the evictions if ordered by a judge. What they will seek is “alternative housing” for families and to mediate between judges and banks before the evictions are ordered.
Carmena has already met with the directors of Bankia, Banco Santander and BBVA. About her meeting with Bankia, she said they were beginning to prepare an agreement and that Bankia could lease vacant properties to provide renters with housing. She clarified that she did not know how many vacant properties might exist, or what they would cost to rent, but she saw a “desire to solve the problem,” and that she left feeling very satisfied with the meeting.
The housing policy of Carmena has a limit, which is her absolute respect for the property of banks. Her policy is limited to trying to “convince” the banks to put homes at the disposal of the City Council.
But this means nothing more and nothing less; if a judge issues an eviction, the family will lost their home, continue carrying a debt to the bank, and will have to pay rent. The only winners continue to be the banks.
The banks are responsible for the capitalist crisis and the ones that benefit by it. After doing great business during the “construction boom” they were “rescued” with public money and have expropriated hundreds of thousands of families who were driven out from their homes. Today, the banks are holding thousands of vacant homes, while thousands of people are homeless.
The immediate cessation of all evictions, the cancellation of mortgage debts to low-income families, the expropriation of empty dwellings at the hands of banks to make them available for renting, and the curtailment of penalties for those occupying vacant houses as a result of emergency situations are paramount for solving the social drama of housing. But none of these measures are part of the policies Manuela Carmena is willing to carry out.
The logic of the State’s “management” and the respect for the law, which guides the politics of Ahora Madrid, is in turn what prevents the transformation of the living conditions of the impoverished majority. By accepting the rules of the game already established, it’s only left to be resigned to the misery of the “possible.” In these first days in office, Manuela Carmena is already showing the limitations of the management of the capitalist state .
The potential for social change can only come with the development of an independent social movement based on the self-organization of workers, the unemployed, and those affected by evictions.