(MENAFN - AFP) Spain announced Thursday a two-year halt to evictions of the most desperate homeowners following an outcry over suicides linked to a surge in mortgage-related expulsions.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's right-leaning government said it agreed on a decree implementing the moratorium "for humanitarian reasons" and the new measure was restricted to those in greatest need.
"These are urgent measures for the most vulnerable groups in difficult circumstances, who have been hard hit by the crisis," Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said.
Many were shocked by two suicides in 15 days by indebted homeowners facing expulsion in Spain, where both banks and borrowers were hammered by a 2008 property crash.
On November 9, 53-year-old former Socialist politician Amaia Egana jumped out of her apartment window to her death in the northern Basque municipality of Barakaldo as bailiffs were set to evict her.
Her suicide came 15 days after 53-year-old Jose Luis Domingo hanged himself shortly before bailiffs came to turn him out of his home in the southern city of Granada.
The deaths provided a stark reminder of the cost of Spain's recession, financial crisis and austerity measures, which prompted a general strike and huge demonstrations on Wednesday.
Spain's Economy Minister said the measures aim to ensure the most needy people keep a roof over their head.
The law shields large families; single parents with at least two children or a child under three; families looking after handicapped relatives and jobless borrowers whose benefits have run out.
In all cases, the combined household income may not exceed 1,597 euros (2,040) a month.
The decree empowered the government to begin negotiating to create a social housing pool, allowing unsold homes now owned by Spanish banks to be made available at reduced rent, De Guindos said.
Last month, a group of top magistrates released a report denouncing the trend of forced evictions, which they said have risen by a fifth this year and amounted to 350,000 between 2008 and 2011.
The Spanish Banking Association announced Monday it was freezing mortgage-related evictions for two years in extreme cases. Savings banks, too, suspended expulsions while awaiting new government rules.
The latest suicides sparked angry anti-bank demonstrations in the Basque Country and in Madrid, where protesters cried "Guilty! Guilty!" and "Shame! Shame!".
The conservative Popular Party government opened negotiations with the opposition Socialist Party this week to find a solution to the evictions crisis.
"We have made progress on some very signficant matters but it is a process that has to continue," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said of the talks.