SPAIN passed a decree on Thursday to help the most needy families facing eviction during the nation's economic crisis, responding to an outcry over a homeowner who killed herself when bailiffs arrived to throw her out.
The government said it would suspend evictions for two years for homeowners including those with small children, the disabled and long-term unemployed who can no longer keep up their mortgage repayments.
"This is an emergency response to mitigate the effects of the worst of the economic crisis," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said.
The government would increase the amount of social housing available at low rents for people who have lost their homes, she told a press conference.
Mortgage relief would be available only to people earning less than €19,200 a year.
Banks, many of which are about to receive the first funds from a European bailout of up to €100bn, have repossessed almost 400,000 properties since the real estate market crashed in 2008, including commercial buildings.
But the suicide last Friday of 53-year-old Amaia Egana, who jumped from her fourth-floor flat in the northern Basque Country as she was about to be evicted, has pushed the issue to the top of the political agenda.
Evictions have become increasingly common in recession-bound Spain, where a 25pc unemployment rate coupled with drastic government spending cuts has badly hurt the weakest in society.
Many homeowners can no longer keep up payments on their mortgages after losing their jobs or businesses.