regional politics

Crisis over rehoused families leaves Andalusia coalition seriously damaged

Eleventh hour agreement reached on Friday night between Socialists and United Left Premier Susana Díaz agreed to give back powers over allocation of social housing

Susana Díaz and deputy premier Diego Valderas (IU) this week in the Andalusian parliament.
Susana Díaz and deputy premier Diego Valderas (IU) this week in the Andalusian parliament.julián rojas

The crisis in the Andalusian regional government came to an end late on Friday night, without winners or losers, according to the protagonists. Away from the microphones, however, members of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and United Left (IU), who make up the coalition government in the southern region, both claimed victory.

The tense 48 hours that came to a conclusion at 1.30am on Saturday have left a lot of wounds. The mistrust – or “caution,” in the words of one top-ranking official – between the PSOE and IU that came to the fore last week does not bode well for the remainder of the legislature, which still has two years to run. There are now many doubts as to whether the government will be able to see out its mandate.

It was the rehousing of 17 squatter families who had been evicted last Sunday from a building called La Utopía in Seville that prompted the crisis, and saw the agreement between the two regional parties come close to breaking point. The regional government, led by the Socialist Susana Díaz, regularly repeats the message that “another type of politics is possible,” and that her administration is a “guarantee of stability.” The aim is to convey the notion that Andalusia is a safe region in which to invest, but the incident involving the rehousing of the families has drawn attention to an issue that has massive social repercussions.

There are now many doubts as to whether the government will be able to see out its mandate

“It’s not a question of eight families, but rather the concept, the values,” argued one PSOE leader. “Andalusia is not Venezuela, and we can’t let anyone who bangs on the door just walk away with a new house.”

Last Wednesday, the IU-led public works department handed out keys to new homes to eight of the families who were at risk of social exclusion. The move came against the wishes of Susana Díaz, with the Socialists voicing doubts as to whether the families met the requirements for social housing.

But IU showed no such doubts over the process. Hours later, photos emerged of the evicted families with the keys in their hands. The IU coordinator, Antonio Maíllo, joined the happy scene. That set alarm bells ringing in the PSOE, as they felt it sent out the message that the way to get hold of social housing was to kick down the door of an empty property.

Andalusia is not Venezuela, and we can’t let anyone  just walk away with a new house”

That night, Díaz put her foot down. She announced a decree that would take away from the public works department the powers to hand out social housing, albeit providing a guarantee that they would be returned once it could be proved that the rehousing of the families in question had been done within the law. IU reacted by saying that the move was proof of Díaz’s “desire to always be center stage.”

On Thursday, the coalition called together its joint committee in order to try and solve the crisis in the government. They spent 12 hours in that meeting. The reports and documents they were studying did not add up. “This is an administrative procedure, and it was not clear who did or did not meet the requirements [for social housing],” explained one of the attendees at that negotiation. The version offered by the Socialists was that the public works department “was hiding information,” and “did not supply the reports with any clarity.”

That was when Díaz took action: at 2am she announced the decree that would take away IU’s powers to allocate social housing.

Leaders from the PSOE and IU celebrated the agreement on Saturday, as well as the continuity of the coalition

On Friday, the regional tax and public administration department, run by Socialist María Jesús Montero, announced that it would be in charge of social housing. In the 24 hours that she had that power, Montero didn’t waste any time. She requested the help of the National Police to check that the eight rehoused families were in their allocated properties. That decision reveals the huge mistrust of the Socialists as to whether the people who had been rehoused by the public works department met the legal requirements to be there. Sources from the regional government later tried to play down that decision, saying it was a “standard” procedure. The result of the police investigation, according to the same sources, is that the eight properties were indeed occupied. The tax office, what’s more, demanded that the public works department handed over the files on the families, which were handed over by the IU in the meeting held on Friday, where, at 1.30am, the PSOE and IU managed to reach an agreement to avoid the coalition from falling apart – and as such, avoid the need to call early elections. A new decree was passed to cancel that issued by Díaz, thus returning powers to allocate social housing to the public works department.

Leaders from the PSOE and IU celebrated the agreement on Saturday, as well as the continuity of the coalition. “The agreement has been strengthened,” said the PSOE organization secretary, Juan Cornejo. But the Socialists admitted that the crisis had “created a climate of caution,” and serves as a warning to IU that it cannot “monopolize” certain powers – in this case, housing.

Voices from the United Left, meanwhile, were highly critical of Díaz, accusing her of acting with “arrogance,” “seeking out the most favorable headlines.” Sources from the IU also voiced a note of caution. “We have spent 48 hours checking the paperwork for 17 rehoused families, but we will probably spend four months looking at the files for the use of funds for work training” – funds that, the same sources said, “stink.”

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