Home Owners As the New Precariat: The Mobilization for Dignified Housing in Spain

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: 301
Distributed Paper
Marcos ANCELOVICI , Sociology, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM), Montreal, QC, Canada
Since 2008, there has been a sharp increase in the number of house evictions in Spain and mobilizations in favor of “dignified housing” (vivienda digna) have multiplied. They are mostly based on unemployed home owners facing downward mobility that depart from the traditional profile of radical youths active in the squatters’ movement (okupa) or the global justice movement.

We contend that these home owners constitute a new segment of the precariat (Standing 2011). They are middle and working class people that benefited from easy access to housing credit in the 2000s, during the real estate bubble. When the bubble burst and they lost their job, they became unable to pay their mortgage and faced eviction threats from the banks.

In order to explain the multiplication of mobilizations in favor of “dignified housing,” we focus on a particular organization created in 2009 in Barcelona and which has become the most visible and influential actor of this movement: the “Platform of people affected by mortgages” (Plataforma de los Afectados por la Hipoteca, PAH).

We argue that the growth of the PAH is not a mere side-effect of the crisis. Many other categories of people are affected by the crisis but do not mobilize as much. We claim that its relative success stems from two processes. First, the PAH has managed to reframe the housing crisis in terms of fraud and deception rather than personal responsibility and as a systemic rather than individual issue. Second, the horizontal structure of the PAH is highly inclusive, allows for multiple types and degrees of involvement, and feeds the development of a sense of belonging that helps sustain the mobilization over time. 

Our research is based on semi-structured interviews as well as participant and ethnographic observation in Barcelona in 2013.