REGIONAL POLITICS

Row over evicted squatter families threatens political pact in Andalusia

Socialist regional premier orders IU to temporarily give up control of housing department Agency had begun handing over keys to new homes to those affected

Members of La Utopía community kiss and hug each other after receiving keys to new homes on Wednesday in Seville.
Members of La Utopía community kiss and hug each other after receiving keys to new homes on Wednesday in Seville.julián rojas

The crisis caused by attempts to find new homes for 22 squatter families who were evicted from a building in Seville over the weekend is taking its political toll on the regional government of Andalusia.

The Socialist-led administration of Susana Díaz, which governs in partnership with the United Left (IU) coalition, has ordered the IU to temporarily give up its control of the regional housing department after officials in that agency suddenly began handing over the keys of new homes to many of the affected families.

The two parties came together for an emergency meeting on Thursday morning to try to tackle the dispute. It is the first political crisis in Díaz’s seven-month government, and some fear it could break the pact that has allowed the Socialists to govern with IU’s support since 2012.

The crisis began when 22 families were evicted on Sunday from La Utopía building in Seville, where they had been living since May 2012. The building is the property of the Ibercaja savings bank. The IU, which is in charge of the region’s public works and housing department, had supported the families from the first day.

There are around 12,000 people on public housing waiting lists in Seville

On Wednesday morning, IU officials announced that they were assuming responsibility for the homeless families, many of whom had been camped outside Seville City Hall in protest at their treatment. By the afternoon, the IU authorities at the department had begun handing out keys to public housing units in the regional government’s possession.

Díaz immediately prepared a decree temporarily suspending the IU from the housing department and ordered an internal inquiry.

According to government sources, the Socialist premier – who took over the post following the sudden resignation of her predecessor, José Antonio Griñán, after his name surfaced in an ongoing public fraud inquiry – is trying to determine whether the IU violated certain laws or regulations by skipping procedures in handing out the units. There are around 12,000 people on public housing waiting lists in Seville.

“Giving them the homes could be a breach of their authority,” said one source.

Earlier this week, the regional government announced that it had six empty homes at its disposal and asked Seville municipal officials to make available 16 of the 528 unused properties it says the city also has.

Regardless of the political dispute, the families who received the keys – 10 in all, according to a La Utopía community spokeswoman – were jubilant. “I am very happy,” said one mother of a 14-year-old. “I still cannot believe it.”

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