Expats from all over Andalucia joined a demonstration last Wednesday in Malaga city to protest against property rights abuses in the region, and the demolition threats hanging over many of their homes. When retired expat pensioners, normally invisible in Spanish public life, go on noisy protest marches to voice their anger, then something has gone very wrong.
Groups of protesters, mainly retired British couples, descended on Malaga city centre from areas such Mijas, la Axarquía, and the Almanzora Valley, where the regional government (Junta) estimates there are 11,000 illegal properties in the latter region alone. Many of these properties were built and bought by British retirees in the real estate frenzy between 2001 and 2006.
The demonstrators called on the Junta to put a stop to new demolition orders, and pay owners a reasonable compensation where demolitions are unavoidable. They also called on the Junta to start legalising their homes, and stop “killing the goose that laid the golden eggs” by prosecuting innocent victims rather than the true culprits – the town halls.
Fast-track demolition law
This week, however, the only response from the Junta was to approve a new law making it easier to demolish illegal buildings. In theory this new rule is designed to discourage illegal building that is “manifestly incompatible with town planning laws” and demolish it before it is sold and occupied. But in Andalucia, where the perverse application of law is a local speciality, who’s to say it won’t be used to fast track the demolition of homes belonging to retired British expats (who, after all, have no political clout)?