Housing rights in Spain: MBD v Spain, CESCR Communication No. 5/2015

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

What is this case about?

In 2013, a family with infant children were evicted from their home after their private rental contract expired. At that time, Spain was experiencing a devastating economic crisis with high levels of unemployment, and this had affected the family, leaving them unable to pay rent for some time. The father of the family had applied repeatedly for social housing for well over a decade and was denied each time. After exhausting domestic remedies (i.e. pursuing all reasonable legal remedies at the national level), the family made a complaint to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) against Spain. In 2017, CESCR found Spain in violation of the right to adequate housing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and confirmed that any eviction of tenants from private rental accommodation must comply with the right to adequate housing, particularly in contexts of vulnerability. Further, states must be able to justify broader measures impacting on the right to housing, including sales of public housing stock and the application of tax revenue.

In addition to specific ‘individual recommendations’ concerning the family’s access to adequate housing, compensation and legal costs, CESCR made ‘general recommendations’ to the Spanish government to ensure that similar violations did not happen in the future. CESCR requested: (a) the adoption of legislative and/or administrative measures to ensure that tenants have access to judicial proceedings where a judge might consider the consequences of eviction; (b) the adoption of measures to resolve the lack of coordination between court decisions and the actions of social services; (c) the adoption of measures to guarantee that evictions of those without the means to obtain alternative housing involve genuine consultation and essential steps regarding alternative housing; (d) special protection for those who are in a situation of vulnerability; and (e) the development and implementation of a national plan to guarantee the right to adequate housing for low-income persons.

What collective implementation activity took place?

In 2017-18, ESCR-Net members worked in close partnership and solidarity with members and allies based both in Spain and beyond. This action centred on the right to housing of tenants and persons in socially vulnerable situations and connected the specific case to the broader human rights impacts of the economic crisis and austerity measures imposed across Spain (which were reflective of similar measures imposed across much of Europe and in other parts of the world). In particular, we engaged in:

  • initial strategy discussions between ESCR-Net members and a national monitoring group (comprised of local Spanish allies and social movements) to consider the steps civil society believed Spain would need to take to comply with each recommendation, and how the case implementation is connected to broader advocacy on housing and related rights in Spain
  • bilateral support between ESCR-Net members and local Spanish civil society groups to discuss effective monitoring tools and approaches that could address the recommendations
  • the development of collective submissions by local Spanish groups and by ESCR-Net members internationally, to provide CESCR with additional information and recommendations concerning implementation of the case

What lessons can be drawn from the engagement with the UN Committee on ESCR follow-up procedure in this case?

On November 5, 2018, members gathered for a webinar discussion titled: “Implementing CESCR Decisions: Lessons from the Experience of the Follow-Up Procedure in MBD v. Spain.” The online seminar served as an opportunity for advocates promoting implementation in Spain to distill and communicate lessons learned from the follow-up process to the wider network community. Presenters included Irene Escorihuela Blasco (Observatori DESC, ESCR-Net member), Javier Rubio (Centro de Asesoría y Estudios Sociales – CAES), and Marta Mendiola (Amnesty International España, ESCR-Net member). The full webinar and accompanying slides are linked below.

Implementing ESCR Committee Decisions: Follow-Up Procedure Experience in MBD v. Spain

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