Wrecking ball threatens more than 300,000 illegal homes in the Valencia region

by Lorraine Williamson
illegal homes
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VALENCIA – The regional government of Valencia wants to demolish all illegal or irregular homes built since 2014. This concerns 307,000 homes. If the houses on developed land are included, there are even more. 

It is the mission of the new Agency for Territorial Protection, based in Elche and currently employing only 30 officials: Demolish all properties, villas and illegal homes built since 2014. 

When? 

The big question of concerned citizens now is: When? According to the regional manager García Nebot, there is no fixed deadline, because it depends on the type of house and location. He said this last week during a meeting organised by the College of Architects in the region. However, it can also happen when the owners no longer live there or have died. 

Tacit consent from municipalities 

The agency aims to solve a general problem affecting entire cities, such as Elche, Llíria, Buñol, or Burriana. In addition to these illegal constructions, there must be an end to the common practice that most of the illegal homes are built on vacant land with the tacit consent of the local authorities, otherwise, they would not have access to basic services. However, homes built before 2014 can be regulated in consultation with the administrations. 

In the 80s it was common to build a small house next to the vegetable garden or orchard to make paella on Sundays. Little by little, these houses were expanded, especially from the 1990s. However, they did not take into account their impact on the environment. 

Municipalities must cooperate 

In order to determine exactly which homes and buildings are involved, the new agency needs the cooperation of the municipalities. 186 city councils in the community have offered their assistance. “They will be our eyes, together with the local police and the Guardia Civil, to detect illegal houses. We need their cooperation to deal with the problem,” said García Nebot. 

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Preventive effect 

It is also hoped this plan will have a preventive effect so that such practices will come to an end. The aim is to reduce the environmental impact of illegal constructions. Therefore where the owners make the effort to reduce the environmental impact by, for example, constructing sewage treatment plants and sewers, will be saved from demolition. 

Only one in three municipalities provides data 

The newspaper Las Provincias reports on Friday 12 November that only one in three (186 out of 542) Valencian municipalities provided the new agency with data on illegal housing. That number reflects the high level of skepticism on the part of the local government regarding the possibilities of the institution under the Ministry of Territorial Policy, Public Works and Mobility to proceed with the demolition. 

Stumbling block 

Lack of interest from the municipalities is already a stumbling block to eliminating the irregular constructions on the map. In addition, there are still possible legal or administrative obstacles before the final demolition can be started. 

Count or estimate the number? 

Something that is also not clear is how the ‘count’ of irregular demolition houses came about. The figure is, as the agency itself acknowledges, “an estimate that will now be studied in more detail”. 

At the moment, the agency has only confirmed that the density of buildings affected by the measure is particularly high in regions such as Vinalopó and Vega Baja, municipalities such as Catral and the Chiva-La Hoya de Buñol area. 

Marbella also has a problem with nearly 20,000 illegal properties, however, Marbella officials are working on a solution.

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