Saturday, 10 September 2011

Housing 'amnesty' for illegal building

ANDALUCÍA (Original source: Telegraph) Thousands of British expatriates whose Spanish holiday homes were declared to have been illegally built are set to benefit from a new government ‘amnesty’. The homes are among vast numbers of properties in southern Spain that faced the prospect of compulsory demolition after local officials ruled that they had been built with inadequate planning permission. In many cases, construction had been approved by corrupt town hall politicians but later ruled illegal by regional planning authorities. Now, in a major boost for British owners, many of whom had invested life savings in the Andalucía properties, the regional government has declared that more than 11,000 of them in the Axarquía region near Málaga may be legalised.>>>“Finally, we think we’re hitting the home straight,” said Philip Smalley, president of residents’ group Save Our Homes in Axarquia. “At the moment it is just words, but our understanding is that finally the council in Andalucia will pass an amendment to legalise these houses. It is absolutely a step in the right direction.” Josefina Cruz, the head of the department for public works and housing in the Andalusian regional government, met with mayors from 14 municipalities in the Axarquia region on Friday to explain the decree, which will normalise 11,025 houses in their area.

Many British owners claim to have bought the homes in good faith, only to become embroiled in lengthy and expensive court battles and planning rows.
Ms Cruz said the move would permit the “recognition of the houses”, and would be enacted within three to six months.
Crucially, the amendment will state that the properties can have access to infrastructure and basic services – at present, many illegally-built homes have been denied permission to even connected to mains electricity, water systems or sanitation facilities. Campaigners say this is seen as a step towards fully legalising the property.

Ms Cruz described the announcement as a “a recognition of a reality which is there, and responding to it, but with conditions. What we are doing is recognising the existence of 11,025 homes which can start a process of regularisation.”

The latest announcement would seem to be another initiative to restore confidence in the troubled Spanish property market, which has been badly hit by the global economic downturn and the problems in the Eurozone.

Early in March, Beatriz Corredor, the Spanish secretary of state for housing, told The Sunday Telegraph that the Spanish government was keen to woo British buyers back to the Spanish property market. She said that new legislation was being put in place to reassure potential purchasers their homes were built legally, and prevent a repeat of the illegal building fiasco which has blighted much of Spain’s coastal provinces. According to government figures, 100,000 homes built around the coast during the last decade face unresolved planning problems.
The amnesty in Axarquia’s will put the vast majority of that area’s illegally-built homes on the road to legalisation, although a remaining 859 properties deemed to have been illegally built on specially-protected land may still be demolished.

However, some embattled home owners fear that the new decree does not go far enough, and remain deeply sceptical about the initiative.

“We’ve heard all of these promises before,” said Maura Hillen, president of a resident’s association in Albox, 130 miles south of Alicante. She has spent recent years campaigning for Britons who, like her, have been given demolition orders. “The devil really is in the detail, and they haven’t published any documentation on this so far. They are very good at making promises, and very bad at living up to them.”

Similar protestations have come from other such groups, including one in Chiclana de la Frontera, where demonstrations recently turned into violent melés. Whether the 'amnesties' can, or will, be applied to other parts of Andalucía, where groups have not yet been formed, is a matter of speculation.

Given that much of the illegal building and feeding-frenzy speculation was 'allowed' during the heyday of a PP-run central government, then 'blind-eyed' by the PSOE, and the chances being that elections on November 20 will bring in the PP again - it is anyone's guess whether any such 'amnesty' is forthcoming.

This site is aware of demolition orders already in the hands of several town halls in the Campo de Gibraltar, including Jimena, Los Barrios, San Roque and Algeciras. The orders are yet to be executed, however, and there is no way of knowing when or if they might be.

In any case, more recent proposals and local legislation have made it possible to 'legalise' illegal properties, but the owners must pay the costs of doing so.


No comments: