This article is written by Lydia Algar from Luxury Lettings. The views expressed here are those of the author.
“When you’re offered 200 euros a month you have no other option but to say yes. You’re desperate.” – Raul Canestraro
HEIGHTS: As rent rises push hundreds of people across Spain out of their homes, many Spaniards are finding themselves facing eviction from their second and third homes in America.
On a recent morning, Raul Canestraro – one of the many Spanish-born tenants facing a tough day at the office – was a grumpy, bearded man walking around the hallway at the River House luxury apartment complex in Queens. The building had just received a letter from the bank that recently took control of the sprawling complex in northwest Queens from crisis-hit lender Riverview.
The letter had been made official a few days earlier by Spanish police. They arrested the maintenance man who was allegedly stealing keys, and the building’s general manager and the building’s legal representative, accusing them of corruption in land allocations.
“They’re taking us back to Spain. You can’t buy an apartment in America anymore,” said the cantankerous Mr Canestraro, a 24-year-old homeless alcoholic who is trying to navigate the irregularities of his own eviction.
A reclusive recluse who refuses to show up at the American Post Office for his monthly rent check, Mr Canestraro will not talk about his eviction.
As recently as December he says he made more than 500 euros a month, after paying rent for the privilege of staying in the infamous “House of Horror”, a six-storey house in Manhattan’s Central Park that features jagged walls of self-smashed windows on every side and painted dogs on every stairwell.
But now the Army of Fucking Scum, as he labels the bank and the taxman, want to hang him up from a cage outside, he says.
Al Jazeera spoke to landlords about the eviction crisis in the US.
Mr Canestraro moved into River House about 10 years ago on a visa. “I have my first apartment, I have my first apartment in America,” he said, “I have everything – but I’m going back to Europe, but I don’t want to be a fucking loser.”
“Listen to me, if you don’t like America, leave the country,” said Mr Canestraro. “The rest of us are going back home.”
He said there are four other families who will soon be evicted as well. He wants to escape but lives in fear of seeing his house in the gossip pages.
After a night of nervously pacing around his apartment and uncertainly flagging down neighbours to get a knock on the door – something they usually do for an overdue rent check – Mr Canestraro receives the eviction notice.
© Al Jazeera
An eviction notice from a US judge that directs a landlord to enforce a legal eviction notice within 30 days. The recent US economic crisis and the skyrocketing rents has put thousands of Spanish people at risk of being booted out of their US homes.
“I’m afraid to wake up,” he says, “every morning I’m scared my children will think I did a stupid thing, because they won’t see me in five years”.
After two days at the trendy neighbourhood of Astoria on the Queens-Jamaica border, there is no sign of Mr Canestraro. His landlord, his wife and three daughters are there.
On Thursday morning, he will find out if he and the others can keep their houses, and if the city tries to come after him for the rent he owes.
“If you don’t want to make the rent in this country, do it elsewhere,” Mr Canestraro said. “Why should I have to be tortured? We deserve so much better than this.”
Next Steps By Lydia Algar, Luxury Lettings
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