Today, Tuesday April 5th at 11am, PAHs from across Catalonia have invaded CatalunyaCaixa’s offices in Ronda Universitat in Barcelona. The action is framed within a global campaign in defense of families affected by Blackstone, the vulture fund against whom we’ve already organised three international actions with the fierce conviction that we will win. Our action coincides with the international United Nations ‘Habitat 3’ meeting, a meeting that various social movements from across the world have come to Barcelona to attend. In this way, we want to make clear that we denounce Blackstone’s extortionist practices and their lack of response to over 100 families in Catalonia that await a dignified solution.
Blackstone is the biggest vulture fund in the world, known in Spain for having bought 90,000 mortgage assets from CatalunyaCaixa worth 9 billion euros for just 4 billion euros. This bank was previously rescued with 12 billion euros in public funds, and the mortgage assets were ceded with zero social remuneration. Despite profiting from our (public) money, we have not seen any signs of social responsibility or any offers to families to stay in their homes at the same price that this investment fund plundered them. All actions, instead, have been aimed in the opposite direction: Blackstone and its subsidiary Anticipa have carried out continuous practices of threats and blackmail during the 8 months they’ve managed the CatalunyaCaixa portfolio, pushing affected families into living conditions on the edge .
These intolerable ways of acting are both immoral and illegal, as every offer violates the Catalan 24/2015 Law, a law against the housing emergency that emerged from the citizen-led Popular Legislative Initiative pushed by the PAH and unanimously approved by the Catalan Parliament in July 2015. Part of Blackstone/Anticipa’s intimidating practices include continuously harassing families to leave their home, sometimes offering them an amount of money that does not even come close to solving their housing situation. Anticipa/Blackstone has contracted a company to extort families, a company that presents itself at people’s homes and threats to evict them if they do not “voluntarily” leave. At the same time, Blackstone/Anticipa has refused to open physical offices so that families can negotiate their own cases in person. They only attend people via telephone, and in this way leave them in a serious state of defencelessness.
In addition, far from offering social rent set at a maximum price of 18% of a family unit’s income, as the Catalan 24/2015 Law stipulates, Blackstone forces people to choose either a social rental contract or the complete elimination of their mortgage debt. This blackmail is accompanied by rental contracts packed with abusive clauses, enabling Blackstone to increase rental prices above the scale set by the law. As they leave us indebted for life, with the sole objective of cleaning up their public image, they also have the shamelessness to offer affected families a one hour per week work placement programme. Our conclusion in the face of an entity that – while dispossessing families of their homes dedicates the scandalous sum of $513 million to pay its founder, Stephen Schwarzman in 2015 – is totally clear: Blackstone swindles, threats and extorts families.
Facing this financial mafia, our objectives are:
· Complete debt forgiveness in exchange for giving the home back to the bank (dation in payment) and a social rent without extortion following the Catalan 24/2015 Law.
· Improvements to Anticipa’s telephone attention protocol.
· Physical offices in the capital of each province so that affected people can present their cases.
· The same agreements for all affected families throughout Spain.
In all this time, owing to the PAH’s pressure, Blackstone has not been able to evict any family. However, we’re back to the fray to denounce Blackstone for its extortionist practices, for not giving solutions to affected families and for violating the 24/2015 Law. At the same time, we demand that the administration use its tools to provide a legal response proportional to the damage that the vulture fund undertakes every day on affected people.
Coinciding with the ‘Habitat 3’ conference, we demand that the UN include in its upcoming debates and recommendations this October in Quito, Ecuador ways to end the financialisation of housing, ensuring its social – not speculative – function. In today’s action we are joined by social movements from across the world that suffer the same abusive and mobster practices from Blackstone and other vulture funds. Today we say: Enough is enough!
That’s why, although this April 5th we start with a Catalan level action, we want to remind everyone that this is a campaign to denounce Blackstone’s pillaging and plundering, and will be a long war of attrition. We are many, we are organised and we do not tolerate any threats or speculation with the vulnerability of families. We will not stop challenging and resisting those who hide behind the telephone wire because we are an example of the global struggle for the right to housing and we have the law behind us. We will keep going until Blackstone takes its claws off of our homes.
¡Sí Se Puede!