Spanish banks have agreed to stop evicting defaulting home owners in an attempt to calm increasing unrest which has led to two suicides.
The Spanish Banking Association declared the two-year halt as the conservative government was due to hold talks with leading Socialist opposition party members to agree on new rules governing evictions.
Public attention on the talks intensified since someone about to be evicted committed suicide on Friday, the second case in just over two weeks.
Debate is centred on Spain’s tough rules for mortgage holders: home owners unable to make monthly payments can be evicted but also remain liable to repay whatever is left on the mortgage after the repossession. More than 350,000 people have lost their homes in this way over the past four years, many because they have lost their jobs or seen their wages plummet due to the crisis.
Bankers said they wanted “to help alleviate the situation of helplessness that many people are suffering owing to the economic crisis”.
The evictions of at least two couples in Madrid and one in eastern Valencia were called off as crowds of protesters gathered outside the apartment buildings to try to prevent police and court officials from entering.
Protests have increased in recent years as the dramatic impact of the repossessions has increasingly angered Spaniards.
Spain is in its second recession in three years following a property crash in 2008. The government predicts no growth until 2014. Unemployment is at 25 per cent, the highest among the 17 euro nations.
Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary, a police union and opposition parties have all come out in recent days to demand new legislation to end the evictions.
Last week the European Court of Justice’s advocate general, Juliane Kokott, said Spain’s rules regarding evictions were at odds with EU customer protection requirements. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy later pledged to work on necessary modifications.