Wednesday, February 21

A bankrupt construction company, a building up for auction and 13 families from Gran Canaria about to be evicted

On Pavía street, in the Guanarteme neighborhood (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), in front of the Fernando Guanarteme school and a few meters from the Las Arenas shopping center and Las Canteras beach, one of the most dystopian chapters of the emergency is taking place housing that the Canary Islands have been suffering from for a long time, almost as if it were a chronic disease that cannot be cured.

The Canary Islands, at the head of Spain in the number of dismissals and evictions due to non-payment of rent

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One day in the last month, the residents of the Pavia building woke up and began to observe how several onlookers prostrated themselves in front of the block where they reside to watch it for minutes. Some of them, unknown to the residents, have come to ring the bell of the apartments and have asked to go up to see the homes, as if they were looking at a shop window. The reason for the visit is none other than the presence of the building in the Idealista portal. The 13 floors of the building are being auctioned by the company IAG Auction, based in Barcelona. 13 floors where vulnerable families, children and people at risk of social exclusion live together, indicate the inhabitants of the same.

The story of why such a large number of families can end up on the street has to do with the company Estudios y Proyectos Canarios SL This company, created in 1999 and specializing in the construction and promotion of all types of real estate, came to an agreement with the owners of several lots in Guanarteme in 2007 to build large apartments of up to seven floors on those lots. In exchange, these small owners would receive a new, renovated and spacious apartment, different from what they already had. And while the construction company was in charge of the works, they would be relocated in the Pavia building, also owned by the same company.

The problem is that Estudios y Proyectos Canarios went bankrupt. The financial crisis ate up a company that in 2014 began a plan to liquidate its assets to settle the debt with its creditors, among which were Caixa Bank, Banco Santander, Bankia and Bankinter. Being these banking entities, several expert sources in the bankruptcy procedure suggest that the company would have been forced to first satisfy the credits with special privilege, those linked to real estate or furniture mortgages.

In this sense, Estudios y Proyectos Canarios has been putting in the hands of its debtors the assets it had, including the lots that belonged to the families of Guanarteme and now also the Pavia building, where they had stayed more than a decade ago. these same people in what was going to be a “provisional” stay, according to what they say the company promised them. They now denounce that the bankruptcy administrator of the procedure has not compensated them for the land that originally corresponded to them and that they did not receive a notification of the auction of the apartment in which they live. This newspaper has contacted said advisory this Friday, but has not received a response.

“These families have no choice. There are older people, small children… It’s an outrage,” says one of the victims, Carmen Díaz, anguished, who precisely had her plot next to the Pavía building, and now has to see every day how they build in a plot that years ago it was his. “I can’t go through there anymore. When I see that they are building on my lot and I am left with nothing, I cannot sleep. It was an inheritance from my father.”

In this case, Diaz’s lot was empty. But it is that others affected already had an address in theirs that they intended to change for the one projected by Estudios y Proyectos Canarios. Like Díaz, they have been left empty-handed.

“I have lost my house. It is almost in ruins and we cannot go inside to live. And we don’t know if someone has bought it or not, ”says one of the affected neighbors, who prefers not to reveal her identity. “The bankruptcy says that we knew all this [lo de la subasta]. Is not true. We have not been notified of anything. They can’t throw us out on the street with nothing. To an 80-year-old person, who had a heart attack two months ago, how can you tell him that you are going to throw him out on the street?

The Pavia building auction begins on October 21 and ends a month later. There are apartments with a starting price of just over 40,000 euros and others above 80,000. In the area where it is located, right next to the most visited beach in the capital of Gran Canaria, the cost is much lower than what is usually seen in real estate portals. There are those who fear that an investment fund will take over all the apartments to touristize them.

“The people who live here have not even been given preferential treatment for the acquisition of these homes,” complains one of Díaz’s relatives. “The fear we have is that an investor shark will arrive. We have already seen people perched counting the floors. We never thought it would come to this.” When the auction ends and the building is awarded to a buyer, the subsequent step is the beginning of an eviction procedure, a procedure that occurs more in the Archipelago than in any other autonomous community.

In the second quarter of 2022 alone, and with the anti-eviction decree in force, in the Canary Islands there were 720 evictions (for non-payment of rent, mortgage or others), a rate of 33.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, only surpassed by Murcia (35, 7), according to data from the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). Although they were a little less than in the same period of 2021, Fernando Rodríguez, director of Provivienda en las Islas, fears that the worst may be yet to come when the regulations that protect vulnerable families decline.

“I know that many evictions are being paralyzed thanks to the social reports that the city councils raise. But the main concern is what will happen in the future [el 1 de enero de 2023 finaliza el decreto]. The debt of these landlords is accumulating, as well as that of the electric companies due to the suspension of the cut of basic supplies”, warns Rodríguez.

To make matters worse, the Canary Islands is the Spanish region that has least increased the number of officially protected homes with respect to the total number of homes built between 1981 and 2019, according to the Housing and Land Observatory, dependent on the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda. To give an example: in Asturias, while 60% of all the homes that were built in those four decades were officially protected, in the Canary Islands, only 10%. “This is one more example of the housing problem that we are suffering in the Archipelago, where there is practically no offer of social flats and there are more than 15,000 applicants for one”.

The case of the Guanarteme building is very reminiscent of the one experienced a few years ago in Añaza, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. On that occasion, the Government of the Canary Islands bought two buildings with 358 subsidized houses from Santander bank for almost 25 million euros to prevent the entity from selling them to a vulture fund. The residents of the blocks had also received eviction threats and were saved for this purchase. Then they went on to have the public company for the promotion of protected housing (VISOCAN) as their landlord, a relationship that also had its pluses and minuses and has led to another story.