Renters who are unable to pay their landlords are being evicted, and they are outraged. They’re especially irritated because their landlord is a large investment firm based on Wall Street.
But what if I told you that this was taking place thousands of miles away from New York City, even an ocean away, in Spain? And what if I told you that the Spanish evictees aren’t going down without a fight?
As a result of the pandemic, large American private equity firms have been evicting renters from their apartments in Spain. Renters, on the other hand, have organized against landlords, lawyers, and police officers who are attempting to evict them, refusing to leave their own homes and squatting in others.
According to reports this week, a group called “Guerra a Cerberus” — War Against Cerberus — has been fighting back against eviction attempts. The organization, made up of both residents and long-term housing activists in Spain, is protesting the firms that they claim have profited from the pandemic’s financial strain, as well as the court system, which they believe favors landlords in eviction cases.
Cerberus, named after the three-headed dog in Greek mythology who guards the underworld, is a massive investment firm that began buying cheap properties across Spain after the global financial crisis began in 2008. Cerberus and other firms, such as Blackstone and Lone Star, are based in the United States, but have collectively purchased thousands of properties throughout Europe.
When police officers and lawyers representing private equity firms try to force residents out of their homes, members of War Against Cerberus take action. Members of the organization squat in properties owned by the firms in other parts of the city as they are physically removed from their apartments.
According to War Against Cerberus, dozens of households have occupied buildings owned by private equity firms. The pressure that squatters put on large corporations is quantifiable: removing squatters can take years in court and millions of dollars in legal fees.
War Against Cerberus frequently shares their interactions with law enforcement on social media. They also use social media platforms like Twitter to mobilize support when residents are evicted from their homes.
“Today, the vulture fund Cerberus wants to take out Yousra and her family,” the group announced last week on Twitter. “People from all over have woken up in the neighborhood, displaying an organized and combative movement.” A photo accompanying the tweet shows the group forming a blockade in front of the apartment where they were protesting.
“Our lives are worth more than all of their properties, so #GuerraACerberus,” yelled one organizer at a group meeting in October.
The housing crisis in Spain worsened during the pandemic, with evictions increasing by 14% in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, according to the government, but residents have been hit hard since the 2008 financial crisis. Homeowners went bankrupt, evictions increased, and thousands of people were evicted. The number of renters in Spain has increased by more than 40% in the last decade.
Spanish politicians have recently proposed legislation to limit the influence of large corporations in the country, joining governments around the world in their efforts to address the housing crisis.
This month, the country’s left-wing government proposed a housing law that it claimed would protect tenants from investment funds and other large landlords. Spain is just one of several countries taking bold new steps to address housing affordability. Residents in Berlin even voted for the city to seize apartments from the city’s largest landlords.