THE final barrier preventing the legalization of hundreds of thousands of homes built across rural Andalusia had been removed, after an agreement was struck between the Junta and Spain’s central government on Monday.

Expats have been among the estimated 300,000 homeowners battling for decades to sort out the planning status of their homes in a saga that has trapped many in unsellable homes and without access to basic services.

Victory was celebrated in September 2019 when a decree was passed by the Junta to allow town halls to give a special permission, called an AFO, to recognise irregular houses, a move that would finally give them legal status.

But the celebrations were soon dampened when Spain’s national government said it would challenge the law in the Constitutional Court over “legal discrepancies” and conflicts with the notorious Spanish Ley de Costas coastal law.

However, this week a deal has been struck that will see the new decree brought into force with the exclusion of those areas that fall under coastal law.

“It means the Andalucian decree we fought so hard for and which was threatened by an appeal to the Constitutional Court will remain in force, just without affecting coastal areas,” explained Gerard Vazquez, a lawyer from Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No! (AUAN), a lobby group that has long campaigned for the legalization of homes declared illegal by planning authorities. 

“The majority of the irregular homes are not actually within the coastal protection zone, so we are very happy with agreement,” he said. “This is great news!”

A jumble of planning laws and disputes between municipal and regional authorities saw hundreds of thousands of homes declared illegal in the region, not only those which were built illegally by roque builders and bought in good faith but also those which had the correct planning from the local council and were retroactively declared illegal by planning authorities on a regional level.

demolition almeria
Helen and Len Prior watched as their dream home in Almeria was demolished.

Some people have lived for years with demolition orders over their properties and one couple, Len and Helen Prior are still living in their garage 13 years after house was destroyed with a wrecking ball.

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