The president of the Junta de Andalucía was in the Axarquía on Thursday, 5 September, to speak about a planned new regional government decree on illegal homes. Juanma Moreno said it should help many of the 22,000 homes in the east of Malaga province that were built on designated rural land and with invalid town-hall-issued building licences.
The meeting in Vélez-Málaga included the mayors of the Axarquía towns and villages as well as members of Save Our Homes Axarquía (SOHA), which represents around 500 affected owners. Moreno gave assurances that his government would solve the problem during this term of office.
The regional president, who was elected last year, said he wanted to reassure the homeowners affected that "for the first time in many years there is a government in the Junta de Andalucía that is ready to look for a solution to the problem".
According to Moreno, the problem of the irregular housing doesn't just affect the homeowners who have been living with the threat of having their houses demolished, not being able to connect to mains water and electricity supplies, being unable to get mortgages for their properties or being able to sell them easily. In his view, it is also impeding the development and growth of towns and villages.
"I believe that after so many years the moment has arrived to find a solution, although it isn't easy," he said. He added, "With good will and dialogue we can achieve it."
The president didn't mention any amnesty and pointed out that not all houses will be included in the forthcoming Junta decree and that "not everyone will be satisfied" with the outcome.
Moreno explained that planning law is complicated, with rules on a European, national and regional level that still had to be taken into account in drafting the planned new decree.
"We can't go against the law. We can't complicate matters and end up delaying, limiting or going back to square one," he explained.
The Junta's Development and Infrastructure minister, Marifrán Carazo, claimed that she has spent many months drafting the decree that will modify the LOUA (Andalusian urban development law) and will provide new ways for homes to be legalised other than Asimilado Fuera de Ordenación (AFO) status, a remedial planning designation that allows individual irregular homes to at least access basic utility services and avoid demolition.
Carazo explained that the new decree will be designed to speed up the process to regularise houses. According to the minister, an earlier decree (Decreto 2/2012) approved by the last regional government had a lot of "restrictions", making it difficult for property owners to get AFO status.
"We want the recognition to extend beyond standalone houses to groups of properties that aren't individual properties but established housing developments," she added.
Carazo pointed out the need for town hall support to issue local, sectorial planning guidelines for these housing estates, as many smaller councils don't yet have formalised master planning blueprints (PGOU) to use as a base.
She also announced that, based on a 2016 ruling, houses built with any local building licence which has since been annulled will be able to obtain AFO status.
Phil Smalley, president of the SOHA campaigning group told SUR in English that he welcomed the news and that he was "very happy" with last week's meeting.
He added, though, that SOHA is waiting to see the wording of the decree, which he says is due to be published at the end of September. "We have it in words, now we need to have it in writing," he said.