May 18, 2021

Three generations with housing problems: "Doesn’t one have the right to die under a decent roof?"

When housing is not a basic necessity

The United Nations has condemned Spain on five occasions for violating the right to housing. The five cases concern Madrid, a community where rent has risen three times higher than wages in recent years. talks to people from three different generations affected by it.

José Gutiérrez, born in 1945, retired, lives with his wife, Adela Castro, in an apartment in Carabanchel that they bought in 2002. In 2015, when their family business went bankrupt, they received an eviction order because the house, despite being paid in full, it had been used as collateral. The couple experienced harrowing moments. Adela developed cancer, had to undergo two operations and suffers painful sequelae. They were afraid of staying on the street. They got a moratorium until 2024, but they continue to live with uncertainty, knowing that when the deadline is met they could be thrown out.

“I intend to die before that happens,” says José. “We have the right to a roof to die in peace. Or not even that?” He adds. “We are not children, we do not have much to live. Let us live in our little house until then, we do not ask for more,” whispers Adela.

Their granddaughter, who has started working as an interim teacher, has lived with them since Adela fell ill. And her daughter “lives in a damp apartment, her hands are broken because when she lost her job she had to start working on everything, cleaning houses.”

José receives about 1,500 clean euros for a monthly pension, because he worked for thirty-one years at the Casa de la Moneda and then continued there as a part-time employee. When they received the eviction order in 2015, they went to the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH), and thus contacted their lawyer, Alejandra Jacinto, a member of the PAH for years and now an independent candidate on the United We Can list. “When there was only one day left before they kicked us out, she called me on the phone and said: ‘José, you’re not leaving home for the moment, we’ve got a moratorium because of your age.’

“Housing is a right. I have been working all my life, I was born in the Rastro area, I know what it is to live humbly, to go hungry, my father had two jobs and I started working at the age of 13. I see how he continues today There are people who go hungry. The usual ones don’t, those never go hungry. When they say that the poor are supported, I get sick. I don’t sleep at night thinking what will happen if Madrid falls to us again in these elections, “he says.

“What we want is for this situation to be fixed for us, we can pay a rent, but for it to be reasonable,” says Adela. “There is no right to how the rental prices are. We have a friend who shares a flat in Leganés and pays 600 euros a month. In Leganés. We have to eat and help my daughter something,” he says. “The PAH helped us a lot, they held a demonstration at the bank’s headquarters in Parla, in order to negotiate, we wanted them to let us have the apartment paying rent, but nothing. So they recommended that we not continue to pay the community or anything else, because the apartment It was no longer ours. And then fortunately came the moratorium. But until when? “, he adds.

“There is no right for people to have seven houses that cost millions and we cannot even die under a decent roof. According to the Constitution, housing is a right, but you see,” insists José.

“I grew up in a town without a mother since I was three years old, going through many needs, there were no yogurts or anything, we ate fatally and my bones notice that, of course,” says Adela, who suffers from severe back pain as a result of chemotherapy: “We have worked our whole life, we have the right. When I was 11 years old, I came to Madrid to work as an intern in a house and they never paid me, they only supported me.”

Javier Hernández, who graduated a year ago in Psychology from the Autonomous University of Madrid, shares a flat in Tetuán with three other friends. They pay 300 euros each and he earns between 400 and 500 euros a month. “I wanted to study a specialization course at Complutense, but it was suspended due to the pandemic. I started looking for my job but I couldn’t find anything, so I work in a large area, a warehouse, moving boxes. I can because my family supports me “My parents have worked all their lives, he is a doctor, she is a nurse. But those who do not have that support, what?” he asks himself in conversation with in a public square in the Tetuán neighborhood.

“The rent is full of barriers for young people. On the one hand, the price should be regulated, because if not, it is impossible. On the other hand, there are obstacles in the whole process when looking for a flat. Guarantees of up to three are requested months, there is a premeditated shortage that forces you to hurry, if you see a flat they push you to sign instantly because if not, it flies, “he laments.

Like him, his roommates work whatever they can while they finish their graduate degrees or seek employment in their specialty. One is hired at a children’s bookstore, another gives reinforcement classes to students, and a third “works in black in an academy.” They feel like a chosen family and value having a neighborhood and a social fabric in which to build a common project.

“I think that in my generation we are aware that what they sold us is not real. That what our parents experienced is a historical exceptionality. They sell us meritocracy, telling us that if you work hard, you will achieve what you have fought for. That It is very good to win the Olympic Games, but not to have rights, because if you have to win them, they are not rights. ”

“That is why I would not want us to remain like the generation that despite having studied and worked a lot has not obtained what it deserves. No. I want to have the same rights as the kids with whom I studied in the fourth year of ESO who stopped studying because they had to work now or for whatever reason. Rights are rights and they have to be for everyone. ”

Javier considers it key to have public housing and to regulate the rental price: “There are thousands of applications for public housing for raffles for a few hundred homes, it is a lottery, when it should be a right. They throw him out on the street and give him public housing, it is hard to think that public housing could be something that you ask for like someone who goes to a public school or a public hospital. Something that is a basic right should no longer be linked to criteria of vulnerability. that word is very funny. We are not vulnerable, it is that someone is violating us, “he clarifies.

His own difficulties paying rent led him to visit his neighborhood housing assembly. “I got involved because of my personal problem, but there I realized how unfair it is to violate the right to housing. For many people housing is a necessity, it is the place we need to live, to study, to have a a place of safety, so as not to get wet when it rains. For others, it is a way of doing business. There is an incompatibility in it. “

He does not want to talk much about the Madrid elections. He says that he will go to vote, “probably, yes”, but underlines the importance of doing politics “elsewhere, pushing from below.” “Find out what you are going to vote for and, above all, think about what you do the rest of the year, because that is what will determine whether there is a real change or not. When there is progress, even if the reform of the day bears the signature of a party, it is because behind it there have been people pushing from below for years. ”

In the assembly of the PAH of Carabanchel there is no talk of the elections, but a date does resonate: May 9, the day on which the state of alarm will end. “It is not clear to me if then the eviction processes are started, because they have not published it in the BOE,” someone says. “They announced it, but I think it is not officially published until the 9th,” says a woman. About twenty people are sitting in a circle. Several eviction orders are addressed on the agenda, with close dates: May 12, May 26, May 27.

“A notice came to me yesterday, they slipped it under the door,” says a young woman from La Mancha who has been in Madrid for years. “I do not refuse to pay, but I ask that they give me payment facilities, I do not have the money to pay three months of bail and six hundred euros of rent,” he explains.

“Another process has been opened for me in a different court, there are two processes at the same time,” explains Ramiro, a 71-year-old man who continues to work with the hope of getting a minimum pension tomorrow. There are dozens of people present at this assembly who risk being expelled from their homes. Someone proposes an “accompaniment” to Ramiro, that is, to create a group so that he does not go alone to ask about his case in court. The date of May 4 is being considered, but several women point out that it is a bad day: since there are elections, the children will not have school. “Well, we took them to court,” exclaims one.

One of the people who guides the conversation is Elsa, of Chilean origin, with more than two decades living in Spain. Accountant with a higher degree in Administration, he worked for years in an agency. She herself is pending an eviction order: “My ex-husband was doing very well, he is an engineer, but with the crisis everything fell apart. We had paid 14 years of mortgage, but we still had debt. He ended up going to Chile. My brother , who had another floor, he also left, and they left me here with everything. ”

Elsa has three children, one of them disabled, aged 24. “He has had several brain tumors, they have already opened his head several times, they operate on him because chemotherapy is impossible there. He has already lost the vision in his left eye, and although he tries to study it is very difficult,” she explains.

“At first I combined my work with his care, I went to the hospital, went back to work, but there came a time when they threw me out, it was incompatible. It was my son’s life, I couldn’t leave him. I spent more in the hospital than at home. Now he needs care, my children and I take turns. He really wants to do things, but it costs him, he gets very tired, “he laments.

One of his sons is finishing Telecommunications Engineering. “My son tells me: don’t worry, mom, I’ll find a good job and we’ll be able to have a home. The rental price is unbearable, so no one can live. But together, supporting each other, coming here to the assemblies, we are powerful”.


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