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Spain to help struggling mortgage holders

Published on 01/07/2011

Spain's government approved measures Friday to help the soaring number of homeowners, many jobless, who cannot pay their mortgages.

The government has since mid-May faced demonstrations across the country from “indignant” protesters who have won broad public support in decrying the state of the economy and corruption.

Among their demands are changes to Spain’s mortgage foreclosure laws.

Under Spanish law, banks have the right to auction houses in a foreclosure. If no buyers appear, as is often the case, the bank can take ownership of the house for 50 percent of its value.

Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said this percentage would be raised to 60 percent.

“Nobody will be able to take hold of the house of anyone for less than 60 percent of its value,” he told a news conference after a weekly cabinet meeting where the measure was approved.

The government will also raise the amount of home-owners’ monthly income that banks cannot seize after a default to 961 euros ($1,390) from 641 euros, Rubalcaba said.

The number of foreclosed properties in Spain has climbed 10-fold over the past three years, according to Idealista.com, the country’s largest property website.

Spain’s unemployment rate shot up to 21.29 percent in the first quarter, the highest in the industrialised nations, following the collapse of a property bubble in 2008.

The “indignant” want the government to change the law to allow homeowners to walk away from their entire debt by handing over the keys to their properties as in many other countries.

In recent weeks the protesters have successfully blocked the eviction of dozens of homeowners by preventing court officials from entering homes to serve eviction notices.

A poll published Sunday in daily newspaper El Pais found 86 percent of Spaniards back the proposal that banks be required to write of a mortgage debt if a homeowner gives the lender their house.