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More than 50,000 properties in the countryside of Malaga province have still not been made legal, despite two years having passed since the Junta’s decree came into force
28.03.14 - 11:57 -
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A solution that never arrives
Houses in the
countryside around
Frigiliana. :: e. c.
More than 50,000 properties in the countryside of Malaga province have still not been made legal, despite two years having passed since the Junta’s decree came into force
Everybody, local councils as well as the owners of illegal properties, anxiously awaited the details of the Junta de Andalucía’s Decree 2/2012 because they believed it would solve their problems, but it hasn’t. In fact, associations of owners of properties built on land which was not zoned for construction lost no time in expressing their criticism of the new regulations. They consider that these did not offer a practical and effective solution to the problems they were facing in trying to make their properties legal.
The situation has changed little, if at all, two years after the decree came into force. The councils, including those governed by the PSOE (the same party in control at the Junta), believe the regional authority should step forward and take the bull by the horns; the owners of these properties are demanding a proper means of making their houses legal and they consider that what has been done so far is of no use whatsoever.
It is of no use, they say, because the best that 80 per cent of the owners of illegal properties can hope for is that their houses can be considered as Asimilado a Fuera de Ordenación (AFO), or outside of regulation; these are buildings which do not conform to the law and town planning regulations, cannot obtain an occupancy licence and against which no action can be taken because the period of time in which this could be done has expired.
These properties are permitted to be connected to basic utilities such as electricity and water, but remain in a kind of limbo. Being classified as AFO does not make them legal in any way.
The owners are hoping that with the passing of time there may be a change in the direction of the Junta’s town planning policy with regard to the illegal houses that are scattered throughout the countryside in the province, from Manilva to Nerja and from Alcaucín to Tolox.
The Junta admitted in January 2012, when the decree was approved, that only about 10 per cent of the illegal houses would be able to be made legal, a further 10 per cent would remain illegal and the rest, the majority, would have to be registered as Asimilado a Fuera de Ordenación.
Few applications
This explains, in the same week that Energy Agency director Luciano González resigned because of an investigation into his allegedly illegal country house, why two years after Decree 2/2012 came into force the number of applications received by Town Halls to make properties legal has been insignificant and why very few of these processes have begun. This has been a gigantic failure, bearing in mind that there are believed to be more than 50,000 illegal homes in Malaga and that at the beginning of this year only 35 of the 101 municipalities in the province had identified all such buildings as a first step towards the process of making them legal.
According to the decree, councils without an Urban Plan (PGOU) should draw up an advance document which identifies the illegal properties. This must be passed to the regional government’s Environmental and Land Planning department.
Another option is for the identification of rural properties to be included in the Urban Plans, a mechanism which has been chosen by some Town Halls in an attempt to reclassify the land on which the illegal properties have been built. However, this would not be done free of charge and the property owners would have to pay the infrastructure costs, including access roads, pavements and sewage.
At the end of last year, only one third of the Town Halls in the province had taken any steps towards adapting their present town planning policies to Decree 2/2012 by identifying the illegal properties and communities, regulating minimum standards of habitability and sanitation and deciding how much owners would have to pay for the legalisation process.
Of these 35 municipalities, 18 have approved the advance document with details of the illegal properties, 15 have said they do not need to do so, and others have only approved the regulations regarding minimum standards of habitability, according to the latest information from the regional government.
The coordinator of the Ecologistas en Acción environmental group in Malaga province, Rafael Yus, said, “It is clear that the councils are not very interested in applying the decree because it isn’t popular, partly because it would involve an additional cost for those affected and partly because they know that if they apply it they would lose votes. It would have an electoral and social cost. For that reason we have asked on different occasions for the powers over land which is not zoned for building to be passed from the Town Halls to the Junta.”
Juan Antonio Blanco is the owner of an illegal property in Mijas. He obtained a licence for a toolshed and then built the house, which is now the subject of a demolition order. He is the president of the Asociación por la Regularización de la Viviendas Irregulares in this municipality, where he says that most of the illegal houses in the countryside were officially supposed to be toolsheds.
“In some cases, the sheds have been enlarged and made into houses and in others the houses were built with a licence for a shed, and the local councils always turned a blind eye,” he explained. “The decree doesn’t solve our problem,” he added. “In my case, I have spent more than 30,000 euros and I still have no guarantee that my house won’t be demolished. What we are hoping is that the Junta will take a step forward and that the Town Hall, via a new Urban Plan, will give us a solution.”
Although his house is illegal, Juan Antonio Blanco still has to pay IBI tax. A few years ago he succeeded in registering the property for IBI and since then he has been meticulous about paying it. His situation is no different to that of the vast majority of owners of illegal houses which have been built on land not zoned for construction in the province.
“It has nothing to do with legality. It is a building which exists and therefore IBI has to be paid,” says the mayor of La Viñuela, José Juan Jiménez.
In Alcaucín, where about 50 people, including former mayor José Manuel Martín Alba, are being investigated for alleged town planning corruption as part of the ‘Arcos case’, the Town Hall has just carried out a campaign to try to ensure that all properties are registered for IBI. “We have succeeded in adding another 150 properties”, said Mario Blancke, the Town Planning councillor and a member of the Save Our Homes in Axarquía (SOHA) association. This group has been one of the most active in demanding an amnesty from the Junta for country properties.
Save Our Homes in Axarquía, whose members include more than 400 foreign owners of illegal properties, has even asked for the British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, to mediate in finding a solution to the problem of illegal houses, although with no result so far.
SOHA’s argument is that the owners built or bought their houses in good faith, so they are not at all satisfied with the solution which is being offered by the Junta de Andalucía. “Those of us whose licences have been annulled cannot hope to make our properties legal and the best that people with no licence can hope for is that their properties will be declared as being outside the regulations, and we are not in agreement with that,” insisted the president of the association, Philip Smalley.
As time goes by, affected owners are becoming more and more disillusioned, but they say they will not give up their fight to have their houses made legal and they will resist having to comply with the terms of the existing decree.


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