On Wednesday 5th February Maura Hillen, President of homeowners association, AUAN, and the associations lawyer and spokesperson, Gerardo Vazquez, joined other groups from across Andalusia who also campaign for a solution to the issue of some 300,000 irregular houses in the region, for a two hour meeting with the Minister for Development and Territorial Planning, Marifrán Carazo, and with the Director General of Planning, María del Carmen Campagni.

The following day the pair met with the local Delegate for Development and Territorial Planning in Almeria, to focus on the problems with certain municipalities in Almeria.

Support from the government of Andalusia

Both expressed their satisfaction with the reception and the willingness shown by the Minister and the Delegate to resolve this issue. “It is very gratifying to see that we are in the same boat, rowing in the same direction” said Gerardo Vazquez.

Maura Hillen confirms this view, “Yes, we were pleased with how the meetings went. The Minister and the Delegate reiterated that the Regularisation Decree is totally in force and applicable in spite of the possibility that the central government may impugn the regulations before the Constitutional Court. I hope that the latter does not happen, because it would be disastrous for everybody”.

Negativity from some town councils

However, in spite of this level of support from the regional government and Mrs Hillen went on to say that “What neither ourselves nor the other associations are happy about is the negativity, if not downright obstruction, shown by some town hall when it comes to applying the law to grant AFOs, that is to say a municipal permission that allows irregular houses to access basic services and obtain paperwork for humanitarian reasons, and allows measures to protect the environment to be applied to a house.

Foto de familia con la Consejera
Foto de familia con la Consejera

Those affected are very annoyed and frustrated that some Town Halls are putting obstacles in the way of processing AFOs and thus making it difficult to regularise many of the 300,000 irregular houses in Andalusia. I wouldn’t  like to think that they are doing this on purpose, or for reasons they cannot admit to, or that they really do wish to stand on the hose of regularisation”.

Asked about specific Town Halls where this is happening she said “We understand that the situation in Chiclana is especially difficult and, from what we have been told, the attitude of the Town Hall is not exactly supportive of issuing AFOS to its 16,000 irregular houses in order to permit services in an area where residents have spent decades without drinking water. It is a disgrace that the Town Hall has failed to resolve this problem over the last 30 years”.

Reunion con la Consejera
Reunion con la Consejera

Asked if there are any cases in the Valle del Almanzora, the birthplace of AUAN, she said, “I can tell you that in Arboleas, the town hall has rather unusually and rather surprisingly asked for an opinion from the Consejo Consultivo Andaluz (an advisory body) regarding AFO applications, thus suspending and delaying the processing of such applications.

The reluctance to grant AFO in this town hall is well known. Meanwhile people are dying and they don´t seem to care and this is not right. In the beginning, in Zurgena, one of the councillors from this town hall indicated that it would be difficult to authorise AFOs because there was no ordinance and therefore, they did not know what to charge! But now it appears that they have started to process AFOs, which is good news. There are more problems in Albanchez.

In fact, during our meeting on Thursday with the Delegate we spoke about Albanchez in particular in order to clarify some questions and concerns. We specifically spoke about the fee that this town hall proposes to charge for processing AFOs, a fee that AUAN considers not only to be excessive, but also illegal and a deterrent to applicants as it asks for thousands of euros to issue an AFO to an ordinary house.

Reunion con la Consejera
Reunion con la Consejera

We have complained to the Town Hall about this but they are ignoring us. On the other hand, certain voices in this municipality have argued that now is not the time to apply for an AFO given that everything is up in the air, something which is not true, as confirmed by the Minister and the Delegate”.

Gerardo Vazquez finished by saying, “We do not want to waste time squabbling with these Town Halls. We want solutions. But our town halls must understand that the Decree represents a paradigm shift and the old models no longer fit.

Times have changed, they have changed in town planning, just as the regional government has changed, and our town halls must change also, towards models that have greater respect for the basic rights of citizens. This is the moment to provide solutions, not to create obstacles. They must also row in the same direction as the people”.