The flats have no running water and the squatters say they have cleaned out 200 sacks of rubbish. Álvaro Cabrera
Their explanation is simple. After watching a neglected block of new, empty flats gradually deteriorate over the years, one day they started to move in. "We decided altogether" they explain, almost in unison, referring to article 47 of the Spanish Constitution, something they know by heart. "Every Spanish citizen has the right to a decent dwelling", recites María Giles. She belongs to one of the families who are now squatting in a building on the Brocante residential complex, close to the N-340, near the Avenida Benyamina, in Torremolinos.
They have taken over one of the three phases of the development, located at number four of Calle Camino a Villaflora. The block in question is made up of 14 apartments that have never been lived in and the families have moved into 12 of them. Neither the local residents nor the squatters have been able to clarify whether the building still belongs to the developers or is now in the hands of the banks.
"All this had been abandoned, we haven’t forced anything", promises 24 year old Rocío Rodríguez, who has moved in with her son.
This differs though from the version told by the residents who live legally in the other two phases of the complex. Several maintain that the families broke the locks to get into the flats, replacing them with new ones.
"We realised what was going on last Wednesday", said one home owner who asked to remain anonymous, "when they started to turn up with mops and buckets; the police came but all they did was take down their details".
Meanwhile the squatters, who number around 50, have set up an unusual community. "We have agreed on the cleaning of the communal areas and on the distribution of the flats", explains Rocío, who believes that it makes no sense to have closed, empty properties, "when there are people who really need them".
The owners of other properties don’t agree. "They shouldn’t have moved in like this; the rest of us are working hard to pay for our homes. I understand that they want to set up a home, but it should be like everyone else, with a mortgage", adds another resident. María Giles, 54, who has moved into one of the flats with her 15 year old grandson, replies: "We are not against coming to an arrangement and paying 200 euros a month; we are local Torremolinos people and have never been in this situation before; with no work and no home".
David Mérida, 26, who has moved in with his wife and children points out that they have been "cleaning for a week". "We have thrown out 200 sacks; there were piles of rubbish everywhere".
After sleeping on mattresses on the floors for the first few nights they started to move in some furniture. By the end of last week they had plans to take in generators so that they could have a fridge for every two flats, which have no electricity or water. "We have to wash with bottles of water", they explain.
Meanwhile residents have complained that some of the squatters have been using the swimming pool showers to wash. In response the community planned to cut off the water supply to outdoor areas.