A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:
Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra
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October 3 2019 Nº 320
As the Junta de Andalucía has (more or less) legalised the majority of those ‘viviendas alegales’ (can they now be sold or inherited?), allowing them to receive services like water and electricity – and to be taxed – we look at the reactions.
From a lawyer writing at Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Planning amnesty in Andalucía, just don’t call it an amnesty!’. He quotes the old saw ‘“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”’. From Sur in English here, ‘The Junta takes a big step towards in regularising many more of the 327,000 illegal homes in Andalucía. While the properties will still be illegal, they will be given the right to services and judicial security by extending the existing AFO designation’. From La Vanguadia here, ‘The owners see this regularization decree as the light at the end of the tunnel of urban folly’. El Mundo has an opinion piece attacking ‘the amnesty of the parcelistas’: ‘…We do not quite understand – and it is not a problem of ours – how the government of the Most Reverend Juanma Moreno congratulates itself – with metal trumpetry! – for his decision to legalize the 327,000 illegal homes that exist in the Republic of Noddy, built outside the law by owners who knew per-fec-tly well the house of snakes which they were constructing…’. The ecologists are similarly aghast at the ‘amnesty’, saying they plan to appeal the ruling.
Our own opinion is that, with enough regular urbanisations and homes built – legally – in flood plains (Orihuela or Puerto Rey anyone?), homes built safely in the middle of nowhere should hardly be an issue, since they bring a little wealth, life and employment to otherwise moribund villages in el quinto pino. Our support and thanks to both AUAN and SOHA. (Article also on Lenox’ blog here).
The AUAN comments at the foot of this BoT edition.
‘The shape of leftwing housing policies you can expect from the next Spanish Government’: an article from Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight here. The question of rent controls, holiday rentals and empty dwellings would likely affect foreign property owners.
Bloomberg: ‘Spanish Tax Authority Looks at Foreign Property Owners’. This concentrates on company-owned properties. Here.
Visitors to Andalucía were slightly up, but spent slightly less says The Olive Press here. ‘Andalucía received 8,304,311 foreign tourists in the first eight months of the year, a three percent increase on the same period last year. However, these tourists spent just over 3% less in August, spending a total of €8,502,000 between them…’. How can they be so accurate, we wonder. Do they count the house-guests, those who slipped over the border from Murcia for the day and what about that tip the waitress never reported?
The Som Dona Hotel: an adult women-only hotel in Mallorca. The Olive Press stays the night here.
There’s a game one can put on their cell-phone called ‘Pokemón Go’ (here). You chase around your garden hunting little creatures by pointing your phone. It is popular with the kids. Also, according to 20 Minutos here, it’s extremely therapeutic for the elderly and sedentary.
From El Español comes ‘After months of waiting and uncertainty, the million retirees who enjoy the trips of the Imserso are now beginning to receive information of the calendar to book their vacations. The period of commercialization in travel agencies will begin on October 14 and will end on the 18th, depending on the province where one is registered…’.
During his recent trip to New York, the ‘pro-business’ Pedro Sánchez was in a secret meeting with some twenty senior financiers from Wall Street, including the CEO of the Blackstone vulture fund, which already has about 30,000 homes for rent in Spain, and has already complained of «discriminatory over-regulation». More on this at El Mundo here.
The disappearing middle class. From El País here: ‘One in five members of this social group in Spain claims that, despite the recovery, it is difficult to meet all the monthly expenses’. The average middle-class wage in Spain, we are told, is 18,136€ gross.
‘Endesa accelerates closure of coal-fired power-stations at cost of 1,300, million euros’, item from The Corner here. This includes the eventual close-down of the oil-fired power station in Carboneras (Almería) – much to our relief in Mojácar – here.
‘Talgo places the former minister Elena Salgado (PSOE with Zapatero) at the head of its subsidiary to compete with Renfe. The railway manufacturer finalizes its offer to Adif to participate in the process of the liberalization of passenger transport. Salgado, who joined the Motion Rail subsidiary as a counsellor before the summer, will lead the process from her new position as president of the company’. Item from VozPópuli here.
Spanish General Election: Sunday November 10th.
Iñigo Errejón and his Más País plans to defeat Pablo Iglesias in seventeen provinces. Errejón and his allies (Equo, Compromis and la Chunta) have opted to run candidatures only in provinces that have seven or more deputies, with the exception of Castellón, with five: These are La Coruña, Alicante, Asturias, Cádiz, Castellón, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, Murcia, Las Palmas, Pontevedra, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Seville, Valencia, Vizcaya and Zaragoza. In the last elections in April, Unidas Podemos did not obtain more than two seats in any one of them, providing the scenario whereby the representation of Pablo Iglesias could be swamped. El Español looks at the tactic here. Pedro Sánchez meanwhile appears to be concentrating on hoovering up Ciudadanos supporters, says the same newspaper here. The PP is also looking to find more support from dissatisfied Ciudadanos voters, and expects to gain an extra twenty seats in the November election.
The polls seem to show a (unsurprisingly) strong rise in Más País (at the expense of Unidas Podemos). The main growth goes to the PP, and the main loser is Ciudadanos. The PSOE remains as the leader with around 30%. See the aggregate at El País here. The three parties of la izquierda will have a majority says La Voz de Galicia in their own poll here.
Pablo Casado, leader of the PP, has muted his image says El País, with moderation and a dapper-looking beard. It seems to be working, with the polls giving the PP an extra 20 seats.
The majority of the Equo party has thrown in with Errejón’s Más País, although the founder of the party Juan López de Uralde is staying with Podemos says El País here.
The Unidas Podemos leaders in Murcia have announced they are switching to Más País.
Another smaller party, the UPyD, without its founder Rosa Díaz (was PSOE, now PP) is returning to front-line politics and running in the general election under their spokesperson’s orders: Cristiano Brown says ABC here.
In Catalonia, the anarchist CUP says it will run for the general elections.
The Vox deputy for the Balearics, Malena Contestí, has quit saying she considers the party to be ‘homophobic, extremist and antisistema’. El Español has the story here. There’s an interview with her here.
Público is indignant that the PP and Ciudadanos should join together in stopping an appeal over the exoneration for the sale of public housing to the vulture funds during the tenure of Ana Botella as mayoress of Madrid.
The second anniversary of the ‘referendum’ (October 1st) features largely in the pro-independence VilaWeb in English here. From El País in English comes ‘The Catalan regional government on Tuesday observed the second anniversary of the unauthorized independence referendum of October 1, 2017 with a public address that urged citizens to revive the spirit of the breakaway bid in order to advance toward a Catalan republic. Standing inside the courtyard of the Palau de la Generalitat, the building that houses the regional executive, regional premier Quim Torra and his deputy Pere Aragonès read out a speech telling Catalan society to rekindle that spirit in order to address “the challenges of the future.”…’. In Madrid, the PP leader Pablo Casado insists on returning to direct rule for the troubled region (El Mundo here).
From EuropaSur, on the possible fallout from Brexit, and quoting a local worker who passes the frontier each day ‘There is a lot of uncertainty. They don’t want to tell us anything, we ask our bosses and they tell us that there is no problem, with the visa and anything else, but on the border there are days that the guards are getting tougher…’.
The untimely collapse of Thomas Cook continues to throw up stories from the media. A few of them follow here:
·Thomas Cook directives took six million euros out of the hotels in the Balearics two days before the crash says Última Hora here.
·‘At least 500 hotels to shut down imminently in Spain after Thomas Cook collapse as tourism boss begs Ryanair to pick up slack in winter sun flights’. The Olive Press here.
·The Daily Mail provides a hatchet job on one of the previous bosses at his Spanish mansion here. Not that anyone is going to feel sorry for the fellow, who they say earned 17 million pounds in his four years at the company.
·‘Ryanair tripled the price of its flights to Mallorca and the Canary Islands after the bankruptcy of its rival Thomas Cook. Prices sky-rocketed from the United Kingdom to the Spanish islands only hours after the tour operator collapsed’, says El Español here.
·The Guardian says here that ‘Thomas Cook was brought down by incompetence, not boardroom greed’.
·From El Confidencial Digital comes ‘9,500 dismissals of drivers, tour guides, rent-car personnel … thanks to the bankruptcy of Thomas Cook. The fall in activity due to the closure of the tour operator is causing the early termination of contracts, especially in Andalucía, Catalonia and the Valencian Community’.
·From Preferente here: ‘Thomas Cook: 500 hotels in Spain to close immediately. Of those 500 hotels, 100 depended exclusively on the British tour operator, while in the other 400, the volume of customers ranged from 30% to 70%. Official estimates estimate the amount of outstanding debt stands at 200 million euros’.
Some people fall for those ‘Nigerian letters’ – badly written in poor English offering to place millions into your bank account to be safe, and could you send them either the details or a small quantity of money to pay for the transfer. Now around a hundred people are in court in Madrid accused of practicing this kind of fraud – between them, they can count 6,500 victims who lost some 47 million euros says La Información here.
Eroski has been ordered to pay 150,000€ fine for releasing the video to OKDiario of the ex-president of the Madrid Community Cristina Cifuentes who, as we may remember, stole a bottle of face-cream.
Do you know what a TIE is? It’s the Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero which Brit residents will need soon instead of their green police certificate. The story is at Eye on Spain here.
A remarkable article from La Vanguardia that begins with a British couple who returned to the UK, in doubt about what might have happened to them post-Brexit if they had have stayed on the Costa Blanca… then followed by a bemused rant from the journalist on the number of pro-Brexit Brits who live in Spain. ‘…For Tony and many like him, the Spaniards who live in Britain are some of those who are taking advantage of the system. But instead he – and the British who reside on the Costa del Sol, the Costa Dorada, La Manga del Mar Menor or the Costa Blanca – are not «immigrants» but expats, which is very different. Benidorm is like the Calcutta of the times of Mountbatten and the Raj. England is the empire, and Spain, the colony. “We contribute a lot of money to the economy, we leave our savings and our pensions, and in return we only ask for access to healthcare. We spend in the pub and in the supermarket, we pay housekeepers and gardeners, we give life to towns that would otherwise be dead. Our hosts should be grateful and ask us please to stay”… (etc!)’. Of course, this is Rafael Ramos writing from Macclesfield in the UK, but the many readers of this are Spaniards living in Spain. What will they think? A survey at the end of the article, now closed, asks ‘Will Brexit bring more problems than it will solutions to the UK? Of the 31,062 people who answered, 29,366 said ‘yes’.
Inexplicably popular in Spain with two million regular viewers, ‘Telecinco has been condemned “to cease immediately, being also prohibited from resuming in the future, the emission, edition, production, reproduction, public communication, distribution, transformation and all and any other form of exploitation, by itself or through third parties, of the program Pasapalabra» (El País here). The show, a copy of a British TV production, has been showing in Spain since 2000, first on Antena3 and later on Telecinco. The copyright holder sued Mediaset (owners of Telecinco) for 17 million euros in 2014 (here).
The Xylella fastidiosa bacteria has arrived in Spain as forecast, and has been found in 72 municipalities in Alicante, plus two more in Valencia. The bacteria attacks Calicotome spinosa, Helichrysum italicum, Helichrysum stoechas, Lavandula dentata, Lavandula latifolia, Phagnalon saxatile, Polygala myrtifolia, Prunus dulcis (the almond!), Rhamnus alaternus and Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary). It can also attack olive trees (Wiki). Agroinformación has the story here.
A clever chap from Soutomaior (Pontevedra) is training crows to attack and eat the nests of the invasive velutina – the Asian hornet.
The nice if slightly eccentric idea of Spain to give nationality to Sephardic Jews (families of those Jews who were expelled from this country in 1492!) came to an end this past Monday after four years. Some 130,000 people took up the offer says The Guardian here.
An afternoon hunting Barcelona pickpockets in the metro with VozPópuli here. The Mossos d’Esquadra identify 42 of them and arrest 14. The suspects in this case are all foreigners, from Bosnia, Croatia, Libya and Chile.
A Christian cannot be a racist: la iglesia against Vox (and Hazte Oir). Here.
We meet the young activist Nao from Granada in El Mundo here. Nao created the Asociación de Exmusulmanes en España. She is aware that apostasy in Islam is punishable by death. ‘My future was life in my husband’s house, and I said nuts to that’ she says.
‘A Spanish security company spied on Julian Assange in London for the United States. Spain’s High Court is investigating the director of UC Global S.L. and the activities of his company, which had been hired to protect the Ecuadorian embassy in the English capital’. An item from El País in English here. Chilling.
The National Geographic has chosen its ten ‘Modern marvels: museums with spectacular architecture’. Of these, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum and the Museo de la Memoria in Granada make the grade (slideshow here). Granada Digital is on the case here.
El País has a nice article about Portugal here with a road-trip from the north to the south.
Lenox went up on Sunday to beautiful Vélez Blanco (Almería) which has a terrific castle, a great restaurant and almost no tourism. What’s not to like? See Spanish Shilling here.
You have always been clear in your opinions about Brexit – you don’t like it! I respect your view, even if I happen to be on the other side of the fence.
But it was very disappointing to see that you appear to be taking a lead from the Liberal Democrats and other opposition parties in the UK in descending to insults and crude sniping.
I am referring to BoT 319: «…react in horror»; «…the xenophobic atmosphere of 21st Century UK»; «How could they have been so stupid? Well, they were…»; «…a society that appears to be inspired by the early days of Nazi Germany»; «the Boris creature»; «…your home-grown fascist groups».
For shame! It is interesting to note that virtually all the gutter language (B*** to Brexit?) and hyperbola seems to come from the Remain side; very little of that kind of thing from Leavers. How would you feel if, day after day, you read such cant directed at you and your fellow Remainers?
You call us stupid. I can assure you that most of us certainly are not. You say we didn’t know what we were voting for. The Cameron government spent £9 million sending a comprehensive blacklist of everything that could possibly go wrong to every household in Britain – and we still voted «Out»! You harp on about xenophobia and racism, although such feelings are well down the list of everyone I have talked to about the subject. You say you still have your «… British passports». Well, yes – but for how long if the UK were to remain in the EU? And despite your British accents and your British pride, you gratuitously insult your British Prime Minister!
We Leavers cannot fathom why those with their «British pride» should wish to be subservient to an unelected bureaucracy based in a foreign country, which decides what we can buy, who can come and go in our country, how much we can sell our goods for, what laws we must obey and soon, no doubt, how much tax we must pay. It goes against all my instincts of «British pride» to have our laws made by a body over which we have no electoral control, and I think you will find that this is the overwhelming objection of almost every Leaver to the EU.
As for your supporters in the Scottish National party, can somebody please explain to me why they are fighting so hard for their independence from the UK – only to wish to immediately become subservient to the regime in Brussels? The mind boggles. And you call US stupid!
I am not normally moved to complain about these things – like most Leavers I tend to keep my counsel and let ‘the other side’ do all the shouting, but I fear you have overstepped the bounds of reasonable journalism in this instance.
Thank you for your letter.
I tend to look at things from the viewpoint of a Briton living in Spain, and from that position, Brexit will be at the least a nuisance and more probably a disaster. The extreme worry being, of course, deportation.
As it is (see ‘Brexit’ above), we Brit residents will have our green Tarjeta Comunitaria removed and instead, will need to obtain a Tarjeta de Indentificación de Extranjero (automatically losing our modest political rights). Thus we will move from second to third class Europeans.
I doubt the UK will thrive following Brexit, but I don’t care since, as Brexiteers insist, it’s a majority choice. It will, however, impact on the 1.3 million Brits who – in good faith – went to live in the EU-27.
I hope you will understand my feeling on this, and also that you enjoy the BoT when on safer ground!
Un abrazo, Lenox
I have to say – and without going into any details over some of the absurd things you write or suggest – that we think it would be more pleasant if you could kindly treat your better educated readers with a little more respect by being somewhat more objective over matters concerning Brexit?
The Quislings & Remainiacs in UK have made it almost impossible for the current government to handle this well – and as would best suit the nation – notably by forcing them to fight court cases paid for by George Soros – but as the evidence in favour of leaving the EU is unquestionable – and confirmed by the very clear additional evidence that, in our area, the better educated are nearly all Brexiteers.
The intellectually challenged «Bremain» group, so deeply immersed in, and driven by, self-interest alone might just be qualified for a job in Diana Abbott’s cabinet!
As I have said before this is about what is good for the nation – not for me (whose UK health insurance could soon be cancelled!). Tough, I’ll deal with that; we need the UK out of this corrupt, trade-restrictive, undemocratic economic federalist dead zone.
Find me, as I have pleaded for three years now, one single good reason for remaining – please!!
And then tell everyone you have found it – we are all listening.
Most Irish support the EU, however it needs to become more transparent and to explain its actions and decisions more clearly so that the citizenry can feel to be more part of its workings. In my view when a politician is elected as an MEP they go into this big hole and are rarely seen after that, but overall many good things have happened and made things easier for us mere mortals in this union.
Maybe you should vote after all (si eres español, claro). A short cartoon explains how abstention works against one’s convictions. YouTube here.
As an extra treat: Who dis?
New law in Andalucía brings hope to the owners of over 320,000 illegal homes
Maura Hillen, President of AUAN. Email: email@example.com
For decades the owners of an estimated 327,000 homes in the region of Andalucía have found themselves trapped in a legal vacuum because their house or apartment had been built illegally, leaving them to face an array of problems such as no paperwork (deeds), no permission to connect to services such as water and electricity and, in some well publicised cases, facing the threat of or actual demolition of their property.
Many thousands of expats, buyers in good faith, fell into this trap when buying their dream home in the sun and thus became hostage to their own home for over a decade at the mercy of planning officials who have attempted, mostly without success, to shoehorn irregular houses into a highly regular and extremely lengthy planning process.
However, at last the regional government run by the PP and Ciudadanos parties, with the support of the Vox party, has introduced legislation which creates a framework for the regularisation of, it is estimated, the vast majority of these properties. The legislation known as the Decreto-ley 3/2019, de 24 de septiembre, de medidas urgentes para la adecuación ambiental y territorial de las edificaciones irregulares en la Comunidad Autónoma de Andalucía, or ‘Decree containing urgent measures for the environment and territorial adaptation of irregular houses in Andalucía’, came into force on 26th September.
The new legislation allows all owners of an irregular home, except when the property is less than six years old, or on protected or flood risk land, or when it is subject to ongoing planning infraction proceedings, to apply to their town hall for their property to be granted the status of asimilado a fuera de ordenación (AFO). With this status the property can then legally access services if available and it also facilitates the registration of the property at the Land Registry. For many of those affected this offers an immediate way out of the legal vacuum in which they have lingered for many years.
The Decree also provides town halls with a new tool to put order on irregular estates without having to wait an average of nine years for a town plan to be approved. The new, so called, Special Plans, allow town halls to fast track the provision of infrastructure to problem urbanisations outside of the general and very lengthy town planning process.
Whilst some would classify the decree as an amnesty, and it is certainly ambitious in its scope, the costs of an AFO and the special plans must be met by the homeowner. The homeowner must also ensure that measures are in place to minimise the impact of the house on the environment.
Gerardo Vázquez, legal advisor of the AUAN, and spokesperson of CAJU, a national coordinating body for associations seeking justice in planning matters, states that “the Andalusian government is to be congratulated on working on this issue in record time. It is brilliant to see such a firm commitment to change matters. To me it is a breath of fresh air in planning matters.”
Maura Hillen, the president of the homeowners campaign group AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Andalucia NO) welcomed the decree. “It has been a long and difficult road for homeowners and I am glad that the recent change in the government of Andalucía has brought new impetus and new eyes to this issue and I thank them for listening to concerns and proposals. The decree is not a magic-wand solution but it is a practical and workable one which gives the majority of our members a way out of a situation that was not of their making. I am happy with that. The rest is up to homeowners to study their options and act accordingly.”
Enviado por José Antonio Sierra