By ALAN CLENDENNING
MADRID (AP) â¿¿ Irene Gonzalez is desperately waiting to hear if she'll benefit from an emergency government decree that protects Spaniards such as her from being evicted for failing to make their mortgage payments.
Gonzalez, 45, has had her full-time job reduced to part time at the small air-conditioning company she works for. She's a single mother caring for two children in a cramped apartment in a working class neighborhood that she and her ex-husband bought in 2001, when the nation was basking in a strong economy and a seemingly endless housing boom.
She says she can't afford the mortgage payments and her ex-husband, who always handled them after they divorced, stopped paying several years ago when construction business soured with the bursting of Spain's building bubble.Even if Gonzales is granted a two-year reprieve from eviction, Spanish law still mandates that she and her ex-husband will still owe almost â¿¬140,000 ($183,000) on the mortgage, court fees and interest for the rest of their lives. If they don't pay off the debt, their children â¿¿ now 13 and 8 â¿¿ inherit it. Spain has endured a wave of foreclosures that have generated protests and at least two recent suicides by people about to be ousted from their apartments and houses. "What I want to do is just give the house to the bank and be free of the debt," the 45-year-old Gonzalez said. "I've told my parents I want to renounce my inheritance because the bank would get my part." Since issuing the emergency decree, which will protect Spanish families with an annual income of less than â¿¬14,400 after taxes, the government has been under increasing pressure to come up with reforms to its mortgage system. Activists have been lobbying for an insolvency law that would allow those who have defaulted on their mortgages to simply turn in the keys to their homes as they do in countries like the United States, freeing them from mortgage debt.