Evicted families have squatted a building in Seville. They are resisting despite having the water and electricity cut off.
“Twenty families in urgent need of housing, organised through the 15M movement, have squatted an empty building in Avenida de Juventudes Musicales, (the Avenue of Musical Youth!) to make homes for themselves there under the name of Patio of Neighbours “La Utopia” and to “make visible the terrible housing problem that so many people suffer”.
The building has been empty since it was completed in 2010. Instead of it sitting empty, twenty families have made it their home.”
This statement from Barrios en Lucha (Neighbourhoods in Struggle), received on Monday 14th of May, about the occupation of Corrala de Vecinas la Utopia, is the latest in a militant struggle over housing taking place in Spain. The building is an empty apartment block, never let since it was built, which is owned by a property company which has gone bankrupt, with a mortgage owing to the bank Ibercaja. The families squatting the building are homeless, some have been evicted from their homes by the banks after being unable to pay the mortgage, some are tenants who have fallen into rent arrears. There are now thirty six families as more people have moved in. In their own words, “We are a group of people who have an urgent need of housing. The crisis, like it has many people, has hurt us. We are workers, poor people, who have lost our jobs.” Since moving in the occupiers of la Corrala have been suffering harassment including the disconnection of the electricity and, from Tuesday 8th June, the water as well, even though there are people inside in a serious state of ill health.
The occupiers of la Corrala are cleaners, building labourers, hairdressers, supermarket cashiers, who have for years handed over most of their wages to pay for the roof over their heads, and when they have lost their jobs and cannot pay any more, they have been put out in the street. In the block where one woman was living, thirty families have been evicted from their homes. Most of the squatters in la Corrala de Vecinas la Utopia come from la Macarena, which currently has the highest rate of mortgage foreclosures in the city. Seville now has 100,000 empty flats in the metropolitan area, which has a population of around one million.
La Corrala have received support from the strong housing movement in Seville and from 15 M. There have been demonstrations of hundreds of people in support of the occupation and in protest at the withdrawal of gas and water. They are not the first group of people to do this in the city as there is the example of the abuelas of San Bernardo, the “granny squatters” who are elderly people whose homes were uninhabitable, have been able to get themselves decent homes by squatting.
This inspiring direct action by people in defence of their basic needs is becoming more and more necessary. If Corrala de Vecinas la Utopia can succeed it will inspire other people. The banner hanging from their balcony says “We have squatted, you are within your rights to as well.”