Source – usuncut.com
– Ada Colau used to be an anti-eviction activist with Spain’s indignados movement. Now, she’s mayor of Barcelona, and is making the banks pay fines for evicting families from their homes and leaving them vacant. But Barcelona is just one of many cities doing this — in recent years, 100 municipalities across Spain have approved motions to levy fines on banks, which have an estimated 3.4 million vacant homes on their books.
While Barcelona is initially fining banks 60,000 euros monthly (approx. $68K USD) for a dozen vacant homes, more fines may be given for six times as many homes. Banks will be forced to pay the fine each month the building is unoccupied, with other fees assessed as each month goes by
Referring to that figure the “Barcelona standard,” how much could 5 major U.S. cities make in bank fines? And more importantly, could these cities be able to end homelessness by forcing vacant buildings to become occupied?
In 2012, New York City had roughly 6,000 vacant properties (3,551 buildings, 2,489 lots). As of July 2015, New York had an estimated 58,270 homeless people. The Village Voice estimated that NYC’s 3,551 vacant buildings alone could provide shelter for 71,707 people — plenty to end the city’s homelessness crisis. Implementing the Barcelona standard in New York could net the city an extra $405 million each year.
Los Angeles County, which had a homeless population of 44,359 in January 2015, could also end homelessness by encouraging the construction of low-income housing on its estimated 15,000 vacant lots. 14,400 of those lots are privately-owned, meaning Los Angeles could make $80.6 million per month using the Barcelona standard.
As of November 2013, Chicago had some 55,000 vacant homes (13,000 are owned by the city). The Lincoln Park Community Shelter counted 44,505 homeless Chicagoans in 2011. Chicago could conceivably develop those vacant properties into low-income housing to accommodate those in need of shelter. The funding for that construction could also come from an estimated $235.2 million per month from 42,000 privately-owned vacant properties, charging the $5,600 per-building fee that Barcelona uses.
Detroit, which had an estimated 78,000 vacant buildings in 2013 (the number is likely higher), would gain $436.8 million in fines each month from the banks if they paid a $5600 penalty for each vacant building on their books. The Detroit metro area has a homeless population of 34,642, who only have access to 1,900 shelter beds in the city. This means there are at least 2 vacant buildings to every 1 homeless person in Detroit.
Baltimore admits it has some 16,000 vacant buildings and 13,000 vacant lots, and Health Care for the Homeless has estimated Baltimore has at least 3,000 homeless people on any given night. While Baltimore says 75 percent of its vacant properties are privately-owned, that means roughly 22,000 of those buildings and lots are still unoccupied. If banks owned 20,000 of those properties, the city could theoretically gain $112 million in monthly fines to banks. There would certainly be enough property for all of Baltimore’s homeless to have access to shelter, especially since vacant lots can be used to accommodate new low-income housing.
If Spain’s political leaders in 100 cities and towns are punishing the banks that caused the housing crisis, then so can cities around the US.