The walls of the apartment are cracked and patched with damp, but the faded family photographs of Maria Luisa Brana, her husband and their four children, are still hanging.
Eight months ago the five of them — all jobless, like millions in Spain’s recession — faced being thrown out for failing to pay their mortgage.
Unlike many families, they have beaten the odds.
With legal help from the PAH, a citizen protest movement fighting against a wave of evictions across Spain, they managed to get their order to leave cancelled.
“No one else would listen to me. You feel powerless. At the same time you know that you owe that money and you feel guilty,” said Maria Luisa, a 52-year-old with grey hair and a piercing gaze.
The campaign provided legal support and persuaded the bank to let the family stay in their home and pay rent.
Maria Luisa bought the apartment in Villaverde, a working class suburb of Madrid, in 2005 during Spain’s building boom.
Three years later, when the boom went bust, the family was all unemployed and Maria Luisa had 140,000 euros ($185,000) of debt. Their home was seized by the bank.
She recalls the “shame and anger” she felt as she and her husband, an unemployed cook, and all her grown-up children feared ending up in the street.
“I am not a delinquent,” said Maria Luisa, a former food-handler. “I didn’t pay because I was poor.”
Like many homeowners facing eviction in Spain, she turned in desperation to the citizen-run Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH).
She now lives on unemployment benefits of 420 euros a month, “plus what my father-in-law gives,” she told AFP.
The family pays a social housing rate of 350 euros a month secured for them by the PAH, with the right to inhabit the apartment for seven years.
“It’s still not much relief. If I get one month behind with the rent, they’ll take the apartment,” she said.
Economic worries aside, she had a heart attack a few weeks ago.
Under current Spanish law, a bank can pursue a borrower for the remaining balance of a loan if the value of the seized property does not cover it.