Almería is suffering at the moment, with the famous ‘crisis’ beating down hard on the province. Unemployment is over 25% and house-sales, as we know, are non-existent. Although the Government (in the shape of us, the taxpayers) has bailed out the banks, the banks are quite determined not to lend us – or return back to us if you prefer – as much as a penny. So, don’t count on me for investment in the near future.
While we are probably all sick of the subject of ‘illegal houses’ which has catapulted this province to worldwide fame, I was disturbed to read the other day that the so-called six thousand illegal houses, after some counting by those who claim to speak in our name, has now been re-adjusted upwards to 11,000. No doubt, many of these homes – each one owned by an understandably concerned family – can be legalised by the same authorities that have deemed them ‘in an irregular situation’ in the first place. It may cost a bit to fix them, but, what are the banks for?
Then there are those homes, a mere five per cent, which are – presumably – even more irregular than the house built by the Priors in Vera a few years back and which, like the Priors house, will all need to be flattened. Five per cent of 11,000? That’s 550 houses. They are probably right about some of them, like the ones that were built in a dry-river bed in Cantoria practically in view from the mayor’s window.
But, how will this play on the televisions of the world? Will this ‘putting our house (ahem) in order’ encourage the foreign investors to return to Almería, bristling with cheque-books, credit cards, euros, pounds and roubles?
The ‘Paradise Lost’ show, which features Cantoria, was apparently seen on British TV on June 28th by 3,820,000 viewers who will most likely not be buying a home in this province in the near future, or creating jobs for that matter, and, to add fuel to Almería’s falling reputation, the ‘Homes in Hell’, featuring the Prior’s house getting nuked, was once again shown the following week, presumably to similar numbers of couch-potatoes, who may well be thinking of leaving Britain for good, but would be quite as happy living in Cyprus as in Spain.
To battle this, there is an association of foreign property owners – not one of those groups of people who actually own homes at risk, or are foreign, but an official one, run by the building cartels. I’m not making this up. It’s the authority to whom one turns when one wants to know about the Brits for example. The group is called ‘Live in Spain’ (even the name is ambiguous) and they claim that ‘The prospects predict that, in the next five years, 800,000 new foreign families will establish their second home in Spain’. The association has a preferred slogan ‘España destino golf’ and indeed prefers to call the Malaga coastline the ‘Costa del Golf’. The president of ‘Live in Spain’, Manuel Gandarias, who used to preside over the controversial ‘Puerto Sherry’ (home of the prestigious ‘Hotel Yath Club Puerto Sherry’), told the El País newspaper recently that, to bring back the foreign buyers, ‘…one would need to create a platform between companies and banks to better present the Spanish product in the countries where buyers can be found, especially those in recuperation. Such an initiative should also have the direct support of the Spanish state’.
So, let’s spend our way out of the housing crisis with some more tax money. Don’t fix the problem, ignore it! It would be a lot cheaper, it goes without saying, and a lot more useful for Almería, if the ‘Spanish State’ just coughed up the appropriate compensation (and a grovelling apology) to the Priors. But no one knows about such a thing. Those television shows haven’t been screened here.
Another solution is to criticise those who ‘are rocking the boat’ as it is making things harder for the presumably unrepentant promoters. A group of this type, based in Albox, was briefly active making fools of themselves before they threw in the towel sometime last autumn.
More usefully, there was a meeting in Turre the other day between some representatives of the local home-owners groups, like the AULAN, the AUAN, the Cantoria Residents Association, the AVEP, Levante Sin Cables, the Ecologistas en Acción and a senior Junta de Andalucía politician from the opposition Izquierda Unida who appeared willing to take note of the problem. He will raise a motion on the issue of the illegal homes when parliament reconvenes in Seville in early September and he promised to fight for at least the first three points in the ‘Decalogue’ (produced in the spirit of the Auken Report) of demands and recommendations from the property groups. These are:
COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATION: A national commission of investigation be established, with representatives of the administration and citizens’ groups (including those for the protection of homeowners’ rights and the ecologists), to investigate the existing grave planning and environmental problems, to draw up a report on the causes of said problems and their possible solutions, as well as recommendations for the future.
ARBITRATION: The creation of a special administrative commission that includes a provincial public ombudsman, advised by independent investigation services, including representatives from the administration and from citizens’ groups (including those for the defence of individual property owners and ecology groups), and with arbitration powers in relation to disputes concerning these problems, available to affected parties free of charge.
RESPONSIBILITY: The liability of developers, the administration and pertinent third parties, for having given rise to the grave planning and environmental problems which exist, must be made enforceable and real. Any process of regularisation should, as far as possible, include binding agreements (including adequate guarantees) between those who have caused the irregularities and the administration, and these must include the opportune measures so that those who caused the irregularities compensate for the damage caused.
The politico, José Antonio Castro, also took away a dubbed-into-Spanish copy of the Cantoria section of the ‘Paradise Lost’ video (linked here to YouTube).
Meanwhile, we hear that the different property-owners associations spread across Spain, led by the notorious AUN from Valencia, have morphed into (take a deep breath) ‘La Federación Española de Asociaciones en Defensa de los Derechos Humanos y en contra de los Atropellos Urbanísticos y Medioambientales’. The acronym is the easier to use ‘FAUN’. We wish them every success.