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Forced expropriation of empty homes in 14 Catalan municipalities. This is the Catalan government's proposal to respond to the housing problems of Catalonia. After the Spanish PM, Pedro Sánchez, promised a guarantee of 20% of a first-home mortgage for young people and the construction of 20,000 affordable publically-owned rental homes on land belonging to the Spanish defence ministry, the Catalan government has raised the bid and announced that it is starting the process of expropriation of empty homes from owners classified as major property holders where the dwellings have not been occupied for at least 2 years.

The Catalan territorial minister, Juli Fernández, appeared at a press conference to announce that, in a first phase, action will be taken in 14 municipalities - Cornellà de Llobregat, Figueres, Lloret de Mar, Mataró, Mollet del Vallès, Reus, Roda de Berà, Rubí, Salt, Tarragona, Valls, Vic, Viladecans and Vilanova i la Geltrú. He explained that the first communications will be sent in the coming days to certify whether the affected homes are in use as residences and that if it is not proven within a month, a lack of compliance with social requirements will be declared and the expropriation  process will be opened. The aim, they say, is to obtain housing for vulnerable families, for which Incasòl will allocate 5 million euros, which should allow "the potential acquisition of between 50 and 70 homes".

Electoralist measure?

The launch of the process, however, comes in the midst of the Spanish government's offensive in the run-up to the May 28th municipal elections, whose campaign starts this Friday, and which has triggered a cascade of announcements by Sánchez. The latest, on the government's guarantee of 20% of the mortgage for a first home for young people, given this Sunday at a meeting in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

However, the Catalan territorial minister rejects that the Generalitat's move is an electoral measure. He argued that his government explained its approach now because it has the mechanisms ready. Fernández recalled that he has only been in this department for seven months, entering after the departure of Junts from the Catalan executive, when he took over the territorial portfolio held previously by Jordi Puigneró. "Our measures are always accompanied by actions that are tangible. Contrary to some of the announcements that have been made these recent weeks, which do not provide anything very new", he responded, referring to the Spanish government’s proposals.

In fact, the ERC candidate for the Barcelona mayoralty, Ernest Maragall, criticized the PSOE housing proposals this Tuesday during his interview with, considering them electoralist. "He is making campaign promises, pure and simple. Every day he comes out with an announcement more spectacular than the previous one. I am disgusted, it’s democratic embarrassment, that we consider this legitimate in democratic terms, this shameful exercise... This kind of populist give-away seems unworthy of a party that calls itself progressive", he criticised.

The ‘oposicions’ chaos: a pending matter

With regard to the Catalan civil service examinations to stabilize the staff situation in the Catalan administration, which 12 days ago resulted in classroom chaos that has forced all the exams to be repeated, the spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja, has admitted that they have not yet terminated the contract with the Cegos company, responsible for the process. She argued that although the intention is to do so, it must be carried out with legal safeguards. Likewise, the government has not specified how it will go about making the claim against the company for a large compensation sum, as announced by the presidency minister, Laura Vilagrà. The two questions are, according to the spokesperson, in the hands of the Generalitat’s lawyers.

Patrícia Plaja reiterated that Cegos will be held responsible for failing in its contractual responsibilities and said that the response that this company is leading is part of its defence strategy. "Communication is not fluid with this company", she added.

Aid to farmers, unspecified

What the executive has not specified is the aid it will give to farmers in relation to the drought. On this, the executive’s spokesperson assured that the government is "fully aware that the farmers are paying the consequences of the drought", but added that until the extent of this crisis is known, it will not be possible to quantify it. "Rain could affect it and we hope it arrives", she argued, although president Pere Aragonès announced direct aid to the farmers of the Canal d'Urgell two weeks ago, who in the coming days will have to start picking the immature fruit off their trees to save them.