File photo of an AUAN protest held in Almeria in 2010. SUR
Nine months since it came into effect, the regional government’s decree to ‘regularise’ illegal homes has produced few positive results for the majority of affected homeowners, according to Maura Hillen, president of AUAN, a foreign residents-run lobby group which campaigns for “illegal homes bought in good faith in the Almanzora Valley.”
Speaking to SUR in English, Maura says: “When the decree was launched prior to the elections in February of this year, the Junta de Andalucía claimed that ‘90 per cent of our problems’ would be solved. But in many cases it has made things worse.
“Within the Almanzora Valley, the towns of Albox, Albánchez, Arboleas, Cantoria and Partaloa have published their ‘Avance’, a document which describes how a town hall proposes to deal with its stock of illegal houses, and two of those, Albox and Cantoria, have been approved by the Junta. We have analysed this information contained within these reports, with respect to our members’ homes, and have found that 43 per cent are to be subject to administrative and/or criminal charges. And then courts must decide their fate, not the decree.”
AUAN says the legislation is a “badly worded mess that was primarily designed to win an election - not to actually solve a problem.”
Maura Hillen comments: “Many homes were constructed on rustic plots of land that were divided into plots for houses. When these groups of houses cannot be included within the town plan you have the problem of a so-called ‘parcelación urbanística’ on rustic land.
“The ‘solution’ according to the regional government is to turn back the clock by ‘regrouping’ the original parcel of land.
“This issue is difficult to deal with in the real world. The laws relating to the identification of this sort of illegal land division are complex and open to interpretation. In addition, beyond saying that the illegal land division should be regrouped the decree provides no guidance as to how one can sort out issues of ownership and obligations with respect to a group of houses now forced to share a common plot of land.
“We’re finding that some homeowners are already in possession of registered title deeds for their land and house and are unlikely to willingly surrender those deeds in order to enter into a joint ownership scheme with their neighbours, no matter how nice they may be.”
Another key issue which the decree does not adequately address, according to the affected owners, is the access to electricity and water supplies. Maura notes: “The legal changes introduced in February 2012 purported to provide interim provision of services whilst the legalisation process was carried out.
“In practice, the legal provisions are very limited and quite ambiguous. In reality, it has proved difficult to allow temporary connections to services. Furthermore, the legal provisions appear to expire in April 2013 as do the temporary connections. The decree’s text is so badly worded that our town halls are struggling to figure out who qualifies to apply or how long the connections will last.”