British expats: Pensioners living in Spain stung by crippling housing costs | World | New
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The group of up to 200 owners live in Gea y Truyols, a neighborhood in the Spanish region of Murcia. Expats say they are facing demands from Murcia City Hall to find money to complete the urbanization where they live. It comes after development was abandoned by the builder halfway through construction. Consequently, the roads remained unfinished and the water and electricity pipes were never installed.
Linda House, 73, from Essex, is among the expats affected in the predominantly British enclave, where residents still have no access to clean water or electricity.
The retired former PA company explained that she and her neighbors cannot afford to pay new fees on top of what they originally paid for their homes.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, she said: ‘The issue for us going forward is whether the town hall pushes through the plan, which they want to do.
“They want to follow a proper plan and have good roads and such.
“They said we will have to pay – the owners of individual houses – to have all this infrastructure installed.
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“We cannot pay. We paid for an illegal house. We can no longer pay. We are all retirees.
The town hall says it is trying to solve the problem by adapting the urban plan to give expatriates greater legal certainty.
Besides the lack of public services in the area, the British suffer from a mixture of planning problems.
When many expats bought their homes 20 years ago in good faith, they say they were assured by town hall and lawyers that the properties were legally sound.
However, the developer did not have planning permission, meaning the properties are technically illegal.
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In addition to this, expatriates do not have individual deeds to their homes and only own an undivided share of a field.
Andrés Guerrero, the councilor for town planning in Murcia, claimed that the situation was due to mismanagement by the previous council.
He told Spanish broadcaster RTVE: “Things have not been done well and now we will have to bear the cost.”
Linda, who moved to the area in 2003 with her late husband Vic, said the housing saga has made her cautious about investing in Spain.
She said, “You are exposed here. I don’t think it’s a safe place to invest your money.
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Tony Malpass: Bought a house in the area 15 years ago
“It is a pleasant country to live in. Spaniards are pleasant people to be around.
“I really like them. I like their way of life. I like their attitudes.
“Bureaucracy really is the biggest nightmare and scandal. It really is.”
Expats have been asking City Hall for help with their situation for 20 years, but have seen virtually no progress so far.
Another homeowner who has been affected is Tony Malpass, 60, a Midlands security analyst, who bought his home in the area with his wife Anne 15 years ago.
House: Tony’s property in Murcia without water
The owner said his wife felt a sense of “fear” about staying at the property.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: ‘My wife loves going there. But every time we plan to go, it’s 50% excitement, 50% fear.
“Because something will go wrong, like the water will be turned off or something else will happen.”
It is not uncommon in Spain for developments to remain half-finished, especially those built in the early 2000s.
Numerous partially built developments – sometimes dubbed “ghost towns” – litter the Spanish countryside.
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Local Spanish lawyer Gerardo Vasquez, who spoke to expats in Murcia, explained the fallout from Spain’s property bubble.
He told Express.co.uk: “The problem is that after the boom there was a big crash, obviously.
“And a lot of those developers broke down and as a result a lot of those urbanizations weren’t completed.
“They were left in a kind of limbo. This seems to be the case in this urbanization.
Murcia City Hall did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
A Foreign Office spokesman told Express.co.uk: “We are in contact with local authorities and UK residents in the area.”