News Articles

17/01/2012 - The regularisation of illegal houses fails in Cordoba and Chiclana

The recent Decree in Andulucia gives a legal solution to the hundreds of thousands of houses that have been constructed in Andalucía on non urbanizable land. This is the aura that surrounds the decree that the Junta approved last week. In the majority of cases, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing proposes a “recognition” of isolated houses, a legal instrument which allows them to leave the legal limbo in which they currently find themselves and gain access to supplies of water and electricity. However, it needs the collaboration of the citizens.

Various Town Halls in Andalucía have attempted to solve this problem and to regularize the illegal urbanisation that have been constructed in their towns. But in many cases these processes have failed. Two of the most striking examples are Cordoba and the Chiclana in Cadiz .

These areas have around 25,000 houses constructed outside of existing plans. There are some 15,000 in Chiclana and between 7,000 and 9,000 in the town of Cordoba , according to various sources consulted.

In both cases, the Town Halls, regardless of their political colour, have encountered the same problem: the refusal or the inability – depending on whom you speak to – of the owners of the houses to meet the economic costs associated with the process of regularization. Another common denominator between the two locations is the presence of these buildings in the political arena and the lobbying power of the homeowners. A political party has even been created in Chiclana to represent the interests of the homeowners, the Partido Vecinal Regionalista. In Cordoba , all political parties have spent years courting the homeowners.

The town hall of Chiclana (Cadiz, 79,839 inhabitants), currently governed by the PP, approved in 2009, whilst controlled by the Socialists, the first ordinance to initiate the regularization of more than 15,000 illegal houses, which had proliferated during the eighties. But the route opened by this municipality was fraught with obstacles. In two years only 56 homeowners have completed the application to legalise their homes. The majority of the homeowners didn’t want to assume the costs dictated by the Town Hall, despite continuous announcements of reductions in those costs. In addition, Chiclana has more problems. The town plan (PGOU) was annulled by the courts and that which was designated as urbanisable land by this plan has ceased to be legal until some transitory regulations are approved.

It was the planner Manuel Ángel González Fustegueras, responsible for planning in Chiclana, who devised the plan to regularise the houses.  He divided the city into basic management areas and established the steps to give licences to these houses and allow the provision of services such as water, electricity or sewerage. In total, the plan proposed to bring order to 15 million square meters and 15,000 houses, according to the catalogue created by the town council and approved by the Junta. Everything was brought together in ordinances passed in 2009. But in 2010 only 5 households were interested in this project. In 2011, there were only 51.

The biggest drawback for the homeowners is what they consider to be the “excessive cost” of the legalisation of houses which were built without control or permission. A plot of 1,000 square meters, the minimum permitted for regularization, could cost an average of 45,000 Euros. The Town Council made agreements with financial entities to provide payment facilities, and during the final months in the run up to the elections, they announced reductions in the final costs. According to municipal calculations legalising some 15,000 houses will cost 360 million Euros.

The owners of the illegal houses staged demonstrations in various areas in the province of Cadiz .  The most vocal was in Chiclana. This is what the Environmental Prosecutor referred to in his last report as “authentic lobbies of pressure”.  This city took a step further with the creation of a political party, the Partido Vecinal Regionalista, which focussed on this issue and gained two council seats in the last elections.


The current PP council hopes that the Juntas decree will boost its regulations.  It also hopes that the transitory rules within the town plan that it wants to approve in February will solve the administrative difficulties which resulted in the annulment of the previous document by the Supreme Court. If they succeed, the Council hopes that interest will increase beyond the mere 56 who are currently interested in regularising their homes.

Cordoba has witnessed in recent decades the extensive construction of unregulated urbanisations in areas of special environmental and historic interest (such as in the mountains or around the Medina Azahara). The legal solution for the houses (between 7,000 and 9,000, according to various sources consulted) that exist in this area is one of the most important challenges facing urban planning in Cordoba . No municipal corporation, neither the IU-who governed for the previous 12 years- nor the PP, currently in power, have found the key to solving the problem.

The PGOU of 2003 dictates that there are two types of illegal developments: those which can be brought within the law (the majority) and those that cannot (around one thousand houses). 42 urbanisations which can be regularised created homeowners groups (juntas de compensacion de propietarios) to organize the execution of the PGOU so that they could make the necessary changes, paid for by the residents, to provide services. But none of them have managed to complete the process. And to make matters worse, the crisis has impacted their aspirations. Shortly before the local elections, those involved complained that none of the banks would give them the 7% bank guarantee required to start the urbanisation works.

During the election campaign, almost all the political parties courted the illegal homeowners.  There are about 50,000 people living in the suburbs, about 20,000 of them in illegal urbanisations. A haul of votes that nobody can ignore. One of the last announcements of IU in May was that they would improve the procedure for the homeowners groups by accepting personal guarantees such as tax returns, IVA statements or title deeds in place of a bank guarantee.

For its part, the PP, once they took control of Cordoba , opted for a change of strategy, but also with the objective of expediting the legalisation process. Its plan was to allow a new model of regularization for the homeowners groups, where the guarantee of 7% disappeared and the town council paid for the works before billing the residents.
Source:P. ESPINOSA / M. J. ALBERT - Cádiz / Córdoba - 16/01/2012

The Decree to regularize houses in Andalucia – Don’t be dazzled by the fireworks

AUAN, 10th January 2012

Maura Hillen, president of AUAN has described the decree to regularise houses on non urban land, approved today by the regional government, as ‘very disappointing’.

According to Hillen “It’s possible that this fireworks display will dazzle some but if you look at the detail of the Decree you will see that it does not help those with ongoing court proceedings, where perhaps the majority could face the chop”.

“If what the Junta wants is more cases like the Priors, the decree certainly does nothing to prevent that” she added. “Actually, I sometimes despair at how little the administration is in contact with the real problems of its citizens. They must know that what looks nice on paper is not always workable in practice. It appears that they don’t and all they want to do is inundate us with a byzantine tangle of laws and, whilst they are about it, completely destroy foreign investment in Spain ”.

Hillen asks “What shall I tell elderly retirees who have demolition orders against their homes? Can I tell them that the Decree will save them? I can’t because it doesn’t”. “What can I say to hundreds of retired couples who live on irregular urbanisations without escritura for their land? Can I tell them that the Decree will give them their escritura? No I can’t, and indeed some of those who currently have escritura are at risk because, according to the Decree, escrituras can be annulled because of the possible illegal segregation of land.”

“On the other hand, the regularization of these developments still has to go through an unrealistic, expensive, arduous and painful process which will take a very long time” she added. Regarding the new provision for isolated houses she states that “I regret to say that these houses are relatively blighted, since according to the decree they are not entitled to a licence of occupation or use; are subject to yet to be defined future regulations and some theoretical minimum standard of habitability; Furthermore, the decree states that these houses can only be repaired and preserved; that they should have self sufficient supplies of water, electricity and waste treatment and that only in exceptional circumstances can they be connected to mains services; In other words they are of dubious legality”

“That is to say that the Junta, instead of making an important legal change , and by that I mean changing the LOUA, to resolve a major problem has instead only created more confusion in addition to creating a category of second class housing”.

She concluded by saying “I hope that not too many people are lured by this bait because I think that it doesn’t fix very much. In fact among our members we think that only 16% of them will benefit in any way from this Decree”.


AUANs lawyer does not believe that the Decree is the definitive solution for illegal houses


“If it is illegal according to the LOUA, it is illegal according to the Decree”


The regional government approved the Decree to regularize illegal houses on Tuesday, of which there are more than 12,000 in the Almanzora Valley. Gerardo Vázquez is the lawyer of AUAN, an organisation which unites a large number of those affected. We analysed the impact of the decree on the province of Almeria with him.

La Comarca. Firstly, we ask your opinion. The Junta de Andalucía says that 90% of the houses can be legalised. Do you agree with this opinion from what you know of the Decree?

 Gerardo Vázquez.  I am unable to agree with this assessment. In my opinion this decree establishes regulations, regulations which by their very definition cannot change the basic law on which they depend, in this case the LOUA. All they can do is clarify the law. That which is in principle illegal under the LOUA is illegal under the decree. In fact, according to the version of the decree that I have, dated 7th of December 2011, the preamble states that when one speaks of buildings that are assimilated as fuera de ordenacion, in the first place, the buildings still retain their status of illegality. It is true that there is some progress in that it will facilitate the incorporation of certain settlements, of certain illegal or clandestine groups of houses or urbanizations within the town plan and clarifies the process of inclusion.

I believe that that is good, but there is a big gap between that and saying that 90% will be regularized.

L. C.  Do you believe that the decree will place some houses in limbo?

G. V. Yes, in my opinion houses that are classified as assimilated as fuera de ordenacion, according to the decree will not be able to obtain a licence of first occupation. In principle they must provide their own services of water and electricity and the decree states that only exceptionally can they be given access to mains services, obviously paying whatever costs are incurred.  But actually this is already the case; there are houses in the country with solar panels, they can fill water deposits with water delivered by truck. This issue of connecting in exceptional circumstances, we have to see what this means. It isn’t clear and I can see that the town hall might have some discretion in this regard and this might not be a good thing. It needs to be clearer.

L. C.  The decree establishes various routes for the regularisation or recognition of these constructions that were built in the last few years. What are these routes?

G. V. There are three routes which are of most interest in this area.

In the first place, houses constructed without licence and do not comply with planning legislation, but the administration is out of time to act against them. The idea is that these houses will be designated as assimilated as fuera de ordenacion.

The other group is settlements of more than one house; in this case it is possible that these settlements can be incorporated into municipal plans if they are near to the main town, or to an urban centre. In this case the decree allows for incorporation over time.

And the third case is the houses in historic or rural nuclei, in this case called Scattered Rural Settlements.

 L. C.  And houses that have ongoing judicial proceedings, of which there are many.  Will they also be eligible to be helped by this decree?

G. V.  As far as I understand, if there are ongoing proceedings it will be difficult to classify them as assimilated as fuera de ordenacion. If they are part of a settlement, I believe that the legal proceedings are separate to the incorporation of this house into a town plan. What happens is that the house is not legalised according to the decree until the entire urbanisation is legalised and adopted by the town council but this is a very lengthy process and meanwhile the legal proceedings continue to take their course. It is possible to argue before the courts that it would be nonsense to demolish a house which is going to be regularised and I believe that this can be done, but there are no guarantees.

 L. C.  Regarding the provision of services, will the homeowners have to meet the costs?

G. V.   Yes. This is stated clearly in the decree. It says that it is the homeowners who must assume this cost. I believe that in principle the homeowners will agree to this but what will happen if they are asked, to use an example not far from reality, for twenty or thirty thousand Euros? Most will not have this amount of money or will not have all of it and mechanisms must be put in place to assist payment. Otherwise, these urbanisations will be condemned to abandonment, something which is already happening; many British are leaving the Comarca and are abandoning their homes.

L. C.   Regarding the town councils, is it imperative that they have approved general plans to apply the decree to their town?

G. V.   I understand that they can identify these classes of houses via an Avance PGOU, that is to say in principle the general plan does not have to be fully approved.

 L. C.  Those affected speak of a process, which has been going on for a very long time. What sort of time are we talking about before these houses can change their situation?

G. V.   In reality, indefinitely. Regarding the current economic environment, nobody knows when the crisis we are suffering from will end. Who is going to pay for the costs of urbanization works or planning? Apart from the cost, the process is very lengthy, requiring many steps, much public information and many reports. I believe that many British, the majority retired, will be dead before their houses are regularised. We are speaking of more than ten years, possibly.

 L. C. Do you believe that this decree approved by the Junta de Andalucía this week is the solution to the problem?

G. V.   I believe that the solution will come from a change to the basic law, which is the LOUA, because as I said earlier this (the decree) is a regulation which cannot change the basic law; in principle anything that is illegal is still illegal, this decree does not change the character of these houses. This isn’t the decree to solve all problems. In my opinion what is needed is a substantial change to the basic law. This decree has good things, but it is nowhere near the solution for the vast majority of the houses, it does not change their situation.