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Plataforma por una Vivienda Digna (‘Platform for decent housing’), Spain

The PVD emerged almost four years ago in Madrid, bringing together various collectives and neighbourhood and private associations concerned with the growing difficulty of finding a home in the city.

The PVD emerged almost four years ago in Madrid, bringing together various collectives and neighbourhood and private associations concerned with the growing difficulty of finding a home in the city. It then spread to Catalonia, the Baque Country, La Rioja, Valencia and Asturias. Other groups joined as a result of the 23D (23 December) demonstration. The PVD is organised by geographical area, with one committee for each of Spain’s Autonomous Communities, plus provincial delegations in those Communities made up of several provinces. The legal status of the PVD is that of a national association. Each committee has a convenor and various open working groups, as appropriate: for example, public relations (responsible for press releases), graphic design, legal advice, speakers for meetings and debates, management, strategy and planning of protest and other actions , finance, etc. Each committee functions more or less independently, but works in a coordinated fashion with the other committees and delegations. It is in effect a federal operation. The PVD has a formal constitution. It is important to emphasise that the two main premises on which it works are those of legality and an absence of political partisanship. The PVD does not want political parties taking advantage of its work for their own electoral ends. The tool for coordination, communication and connection between the committees is the webpage www.viviendadigna.org , its forums and email.

As a result of the ‘23D’ (23 December) Demonstration for Decent Housing , which took place all over Spain under the general theme ‘I am not going home for Christmas because I haven’t left home yet’ , the PVD has experienced significant growth. At present the PVD is active in 17 provinces and 12 of the Autonomous Communities. The 23D demonstration and its organisation emerged spontaneously, via the internet, as different organisations defending the right to housing joined in. Afterwards, and just as spontaneously, a call emerged for another demonstration on 24 March. This time there was no single theme, although one of the most banners was ‘Hands up everyone with a right to a home who can’t pay for it’ – a reference to a well-known advert. Another popular theme was ‘Housing is a right, not a business’.

It is no longer just young people who face difficulty gaining access to housing in Spain. Other, sizeable, social groups are now finding it harder and harder to get and keep a home, such as divorced men and women who either have to move out of the marital home or stay put but find themselves unable to afford to pay the costs on their own. There is also a serious problem for immigrants who are unable to find affordable housing because, on the one hand, they are undocumented migrants with no way of providing any security for the payment of rent, and, on the other, they are faced with xenophobia and racism (sometimes concealed, sometimes open). This has led to the appearance of ‘bird cages’ (‘pisos patera’), where immigrants live crammed into tiny flats, and ‘hot-bedding’, when two or more people take turns sharing the same bed. Another growing problem is families who find themselves in debt because the terms of their mortgages are extended, to the extent that some mortgages now have terms in excess of fifty years. In addition, the PVD has made a point of denouncing subsidies on housing purchases because all they do is keep the real estate ‘bubble’ afloat, since they do nothing in practice to make housing more affordable, but just go to maintain and inflate already exorbitant house prices and drag us further and further into the spiral of unsustainability taking housing ever further out of reach of most people, rather than meeting a basic human need.

The PVD will probably find itself at a turning point around the time of the local government elections in May. There are plans to continue expanding our activities throughout Spain, with the aim of putting concrete proposals to local and higher-level government bodies. The PVD wants is to get all political parties to work towards a common goal: to get housing market inflation under control, to support social housing for rent, to ensure that new build includes a high proportion of social housing, to undertake rehab and upgrading projects for vacant properties, to clamp down on real estate speculation, to reduce taxes on residential property, to monitor municipal finances and to propose legislative reform and new laws making housing more accessible. In addition, the PVD intends to continue working to stimulate debate and share knowledge about housing issues in the rest of Europe, as well as supporting a range of other activities and proposals, like the European States General on the Right to Housing and Shelter.