, BOLLULLOS PAR DEL CONDADO, June 18 – The washbasin in Juana Alonso’s bathroom is brand new, but no water comes out of the tap. No bulbs hang from the light fittings.
The house is unfinished; no one was meant to be moving in but Juana couldn’t wait.
Along with dozens of neighbours, desperate victims of Spain’s recession brought on by the collapse of the housing boom, she has moved into an abandoned building project on the outskirts of her town, Bollullos Par Del Condado, in sweltering southern Andalucia.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t pay the rent. It was impossible. This place was open, so we came in and here we are,” says Juana, 53, an unemployed care assistant, smoking wearily on her doorstep.
On the edge of a green field where horses graze, Juana and her neighbours found this mini estate of more than 70 elegantly painted three-bedroom houses, empty and partly plundered.
She says about 70 families have moved into the estate in the past three weeks, into houses that are all but finished but lack water and electricity.
“I’m hoping something will budge and they’ll give us light and water and an affordable rent,” she said, red-faced and sweating in the 40-degree heat. “That’s all we’re asking for. We’re humans, not dogs.”
Some of the houses have missing doors and toilets, but all at least have a roof to shield their occupants from the beating sun of early summer.
Like countless projects across Spain, the site was abandoned by property developers when the bank loans dried up in the 2008 financial crisis. Local authorities have remained silent on the status of the site.
Unlike many of Spain’s so-called “ghost towns”, life has returned to this one, in the form of local families ruined by the crisis.
In a farming region where unemployment is nearly 37 percent high above Spain’s huge overall rate of 27 percent these empty lodgings have drawn the poorest of Spain’s poor.
Andalucia’s left-wing regional government in April passed a measure to temporarily block evictions from homes belonging to banks or real estate firms and allow poor families to stay in them for a modest rent.