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Home Occupation vs Private Property in Spain

Home Occupation vs Private Property in Spain

Although on paper the current Spanish Constitution recognizes the right to property, these constitutional declarations are in fact ineffective.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978, currently in force, recognizes the right to property in its article 33.1: “The right to private property and inheritance is recognized”, and also recognizes the inviolability of the home in its article 18.2: “The home is inviolable. No entry or registration may be made in it without the consent of the owner or a judicial decision, except in the case of flagrant crime.” These constitutional declarations are a fallacy in reality.

For example, on the 3rd of March, the Government of Catalonia adopted Law 1/2022,  known as the “Squatting or anti-eviction Law” whose purpose was originally to solve the situation of the lack of housing for the neediest population. However, the separatist leftist parties, PSC (Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya – Socialist Party of Catalonia), CUP (Candidatura d’Unitat Popular – Candidacy for Popular Unity), and ERC (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya – Republican Left of Catalonia) supported the approval of this law, which, in reality, allows the occupation of any private home even if inhabited by its legitimate owners.

This encouragement to occupy homes has spread throughout Spain and has become a serious problem due to the difficulty of being able to evict intruders immediately. Not even the police can expel the “squatters.” According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, collected by the newspaper Libertad Digital, the illegal occupation of homes has increased by 41% in Spain since the communist socialist government of the Socialist Party and Unidas-Podemos (United-We can) was established. The data indicates that in 2021 there were 17,274 violations of the right to private property as the Constitution established. In addition, the approved law allows the compulsory expropriation of properties unused for 2 years. The squatters enjoy impunity and the owners are defenseless.

The situation of homelessness in Spain is serious due to the incompetence of the national government and the majority of the Autonomous Communities. The government wants to ignore the functioning of the market system, recognized in the Spanish Constitution in article 38 and does not favor the construction of social housing for the neediest. They use policies that have already been a failure in other countries since it is necessary to increase the supply of both public and private housing to influence the purchase price and not limit private initiative, which has catastrophic consequences.

Right-wing governments have not distinguished themselves from those on the left in defending the legality of property and have preferred to apply a policy of continuity. Mariano Rajoy, from the center-right Popular Party, ruled in Spain from 2011 to 2018 and did not combat the violation of private property by the “squatters.” The “occupy” movement was not born with the socialist governments but was an activity that originated with the migratory movement. It was in the 1980s when the occupation of properties became popular with the squatters in the United Kingdom and extremist groups, usually communists or anarchists. Other cases of occupation have occurred in the Netherlands and Germany but not with the virulence of that in Spain.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in Omnipotent Government:

“From time immemorial governments have been pager to interfere with the working of the market mechanism. Their endeavors have never attained the ends sought. People used to attribute these failures to the inefficacy of the measures applied and to the leniency of their enforcement… The classical economists demonstrated that each constellation of the market has a correspondent price structure. Prices, wages, and interest rate are the result of interplay of demand and supply. There are forces operating in the market which tend to restore this – natural – sate if it is disturbed.

The Spanish Penal Code approved by Organic Law 10/1995, was applied for the first time against the illegal occupation of homes and, therefore, the first attempt to protect the right to property, in 1997. The old crime of coercion exercised by the squatters against the legitimate owner of the house was replaced by that of usurpation and the squatters could be evicted and sentenced to prison terms. However, the slowness of the judicial processes caused an increase in illegal occupations by squatters aware of the impunity of their actions. Since then no bill has been approved.

The Community of Madrid, governed by the Popular Party, has adopted an initiative to help homeowners who are victims of the illegal occupation of their homes. It is an express legal measure for the eviction of illegal occupants of homes to fight against the crime of occupation of private property. There are currently some 4,300 illegally occupied homes in the Madrid Region. However, the problem is not solved with legal measures alone, but must be implemented with economic decisions, since only the proper functioning of the market can solve the housing deficit. The increase in housing supply through private initiative can reduce the sale price of housing.

Author

  • Carlos Puente Martin

    Carlos Puente has earned a Doctor in Economics and Business Administration cum laude. He was an official of the Foreign Service of Spain and the European Commission (Brussels). He was assigned in Moscow as Commercial Attaché of the Embassy of Spain. He is a lecturer in European and American organizations and institutions and senior visiting professor at universities and international fora.

The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.

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