Updated: 04/12/2013 23:59 | By Agence France-Presse

Spanish region to temporarily bar home evictions

The left-wing regional government of Andalucia in southwestern Spain, which has the country's highest unemployment rate, will temporarily bar evictions from homes belonging to banks or real estate firms to help families in need.

The measure, which came into force in Spain's most populous region on Friday just three days after it was approved by decree, is opposed by the conservative central government, which sees it an attack on private property rights.

But the government of Andalucia, run by the Socialist Party and the far-left United Left, argues it is needed to protect the most vulnerable from a sharp rise in evictions in a region where over one in three workers is unemployed.

The decree allows the regional government to expropriate properties from which people are about to be evicted for up to three years to allow them to continue to live there.

The move will only take place in cases where families meet certain conditions, such as having a net monthly income of less than 1,600 euros ($2,000).

Families that benefit from the measure will have to pay a modest rent.

"The beneficiary will be obligated to pay 25 percent of the household's revenues" in rent, said Andalucia's regional housing minister, Elena Cortes.

The measure also imposes fines of up to 9,000 euros on banks and real estate firms that hold on to empty homes that are fit to live in a bid to increase the pool of affordable housing.

There are at least 700,000 empty homes in Andalucia, according to the regional government.

Spanish courts have executed 252,826 eviction orders -- including a record 75,605 last year -- since 2008, when a decade-long property bubble burst and Spain sank into recession, throwing millions out of work.

Andalucia has been especially hard-hit by the economic downturn. It's unemployment rate stands at 35.86 percent, way above the national average of 26.02 percent.

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