This could be the beginning of the end for many homes that are illegally built. 214 homes that have been built in a natural reserve in the Cantabria region in northern Spain are now being demolished.
The local environmental organization Asociación para la Defensa de los Recursos Natural de Cantabria (ARCA) sees this as “a historically important victory.” The houses should never have been built, but is an example of how local politicians in municipalities around Spain have been giving out building permits they were not allowed to.
According to the Organization for homeowners who are affected by similar cases, Asociación de maltratados por la Administración (AMA), there are about 600,000 homes in Spain that have a demolition verdict.
In this case the houses were built on the mountain Alto del Cuco in Piélagos in 2004. The municipality gave the building permit contrary to all the rules and investigations. 395 houses were planned, but only 214 were built. Practically half of the mountain was destroyed by a construction project that was never completed.
ARCA took the case to court and in 2012 the last word was said in the Supreme Court: The houses were to be demolished! Later it has taken time to arrange financing of the demolition, a cost of 3.7 million euros. But now the demolition is in progress and the cost is shared between the municipality and the regional government of Cantabria.
Some of the problems with houses that are to be demolished, is that they usually are inhabited by families who have been living there for many years and who today live in uncertainty. The families who live in these houses have often acted in good faith when they bought the properties, but have been subjected to local politicians’ speculations in the 1990s and 2000s.
Apart from the personal tragedies that it entails, the illegal properties are a major economic problem for the municipalities who often can not afford to pay for the demolition. Therefore, municipalities often rely on support from the state or region. Because the houses in Piélagos wer uninhabited, it was easier to get started with the demolition.