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Housing crisis: the Platform of Mortgage Victims (PAH) movement in Barcelona and innovations in governance


This paper analysed the aftermath of the bursting of the housing bubble in Spain, which has left thousands of families without homes and indebted for life. In the first of two parts, we look at contextually specific interactions between state regulation and market-oriented projects in Spain. This country is a salient case in which an economic recession and a debt crisis follow upon a long period of growth characterized by a housing bubble and a particular urban growth model. In this part, we argue that the central government has played a key role in framing fiscal incentives for housing ownership, and local and regional administrations have engaged in short-term forms of inter-spatial competition for public and private resources, place marketing and regulatory under-cutting in order to attract investment. In the second part, the paper examined the urban social movement “Platform of Mortgage Victims” that, after starting in Barcelona, has spread to many other cities. The movement has created innovative strategies for housing accessibility and public and private governance in the housing market. These strategies include innovations at the local level and at national and European institutional levels. In this part, we argue that social movements like the one we study are socially innovative when they aim at responding to social needs not met by the market and the state institutions. At the same time with their activism, they transform the debate in the public sphere while prompting institutions to introduce new governance mechanisms and policy outcomes.

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  1. The paper results from research conducted under COST Action IS 1102 during 2012 and 2013.

  2. GPD per capita rose from 72.5 % in 1985 to 97.2 % in 2004 compared with EU15 members.

  3. Large real estate companies, together with banks, involved in housing price appraisal and notaries most influenced housing price inflation and creation of the bubble because of their large presence in the real estate sector.

  4. Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil art. 579/698 (2000-PP). Art. 579 of the Civil procedure says “in case of the auction of the property mortgaged or pledged, and where the product is insufficient to cover the claim, the claimer may request the initiation of (mortgage) executions for the missing amount of the total debt, and the execution will continue according to the ordinary rules applicable to every execution”.

  5. Exact number of initiated mortgage foreclosures during 2008–2012 in Spain: 415117; in Catalonia: 79 699 (C.G.P.J.).

  6. Decreto de 8 febrero 1946, Ley Hipotecaria.

  7. Ley de Enjuiciamiento civil, art. 1911: “del cumplimiento de las obligaciones responde el deudor con todos su bienes, presentes y futuros”.

  8. Art. 695 of Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil limits the possibilities of plea to only calculation errors or liquidation of debts.

  9. The main promoters of the Platform were familiar with housing problems in Spain and had already founded a low-profile social movement “V por Vivienda” in 2006 that focused on the inaccessibility of housing for low-income population, especially young people.

  10. Deprivation of human needs: material and currently also democratic participation.

  11. The workshop was held on 17 September 2013,

  12. The General Council of the Judiciary compiles the most accurate data on the Spanish mortgage foreclosures and evictions. However, the notaries, property registrars and the National Bank of Spain all report different data

  13., consulted in March 2013.

  14. CIS, Centre of Sociological reseach,

  15. El País, 30/03/2010

  16. Ley del Derecho a la Vivienda 18/2007: this law was established under the left coalition government.

  17. The list of the Municipalities that have approved the motion can be found on (2014) and El País, 23/02/2014

  18. A left majority: IU & PSOE, voted on 9 April 2013.

  19. Real Decreto Ley 27/2012, 15 noviembre, Medidas urgentes para reforzar la protección a los deudores hipotecarios.

  20. Ley 1/2013, de 14 de mayo, de medidas para reforzar la protección a los deudores hipotecarios, reestructuración de deuda y alquiler social.

  21. “El País” (From 8 February 2012 onwards, all articles published online are also taken into consideration)

  22. “El País” (By means of analysis of 470 articles on the PAH published in el País between January 2012 and April 2013)

  23. The initiative of this new project was Carmen Trilla’s, secretary of housing at that moment.

  24. Ofideute has agreed with financial institutions to have a single contact person, mostly in the risk department, to whom Ofideute sends the debt settlement proposals of each case they receive.

  25. Two other people who formed the nuclear group of Ofideute: Joana Suñer and a financial expert have also moved from Ofideute to Caritas, apparently because of a lack of funding.

  26. However, financial institutions are not obliged to accept mediation in case of payment arrears on mortgage contracts: people depend entirely on the goodwill of the financial institution in each particular case. This is the case for each mediation service.

  27., accessed December 2013.

  28., accessed December 2013.

  29. List of members of ABSH:

  30. In 2012, 1.972618 Euro (64 % of the family assistance total) went to family aid related to housing problems.

  31. Forty representatives of social organizations, financial institutions, legal institutions and the public administration gather to communicate and relate the experiences and practices from the point of view of their field of action.

  32. Defensor del Pueblo, Crisis Económica y deudores Hipotecarios,

  33. The PAH movement used the ombudsman office to submit complaints against the administration and cooperate on the formulation of recommendations.

  34. Sindic de Greuges, julio 2012, Rafael Ribó Massó


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Correspondence to Julie De Weerdt.

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De Weerdt, J., Garcia, M. Housing crisis: the Platform of Mortgage Victims (PAH) movement in Barcelona and innovations in governance. J Hous and the Built Environ 31, 471–493 (2016).

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  • Social innovation
  • Housing crisis
  • Multi-level governance
  • Urban social movement