The supposed problem of the occupation of houses in Collado Villalba led the municipality’s council to enable in the second half of 2021 the services of an anti-occupation office that it subcontracted for six months and 15,000 euros to a company linked to Salvador Palazón Marquina, administrator of Desokupa express This company is known for its intimidating tactics, based on the literal display of muscle on the doors of houses, and has already had run-ins with the Justice for its overzealousness.
Despite protests from the opposition and the Villalba Housing Assembly, the mayor, Mariola Vargas (PP), said at the end of the year that the experience had been a success and that it would continue. This was not the case and the premises, which once housed art exhibitions, have remained closed throughout 2022, as the Assembly denounced this week. A municipal spokesman now confirms that it will not reopen.
The explanation is that the Community of Madrid is setting up a regional office for the same purpose. “Agreements are being signed with the municipalities for this matter […] It is silly to duplicate efforts”, they explain from the consistory. If in the eight months that have elapsed since the end of the contract no activities have been carried out on the premises, nor transferred to any local entity for specific use, it has been because “there has been no likely activity,” they reason. The town has 64,000 inhabitants.
“They have not given any explanation, but we know that they have closed it because it was not going well,” says Pablo López, spokesman for the Housing Assembly. Although the City Council had presumed that the office had processed up to 121 complaints during the time it was operating, it turned out that some had only a tangential relationship with the matter. For example, a leak in a floor that bothered the neighbor downstairs.
“It’s like setting up an office against pickpockets. The only thing they can advise is that you file a complaint”, compares López. Collado Villalba is also not one of the municipalities most affected by the supposed wave of residential occupations. According to data from the Ministry of the Interior collected by El País, in the five years prior to 2001 only 35 complaints had been filed in the town for occupation or trespassing, compared to 102 in Aranjuez, 60 in Valdemoro or 45 in Arganda del Rey, of similar population.
The contracting of the company Technical Disposals, of the same administrator as Desokupa Expres, was also controversial, since it was done as a minor contract, without advertising, and the company in turn subcontracted the day to day work to the so-called National Organization of People Affected by Squatting. (ONAO), created in 2020 and based in Barcelona. The service that now assumes the guard duties is a number 900 baptized, however, as 112 Occupation. It has been in operation since July, after being announced in 2020 by the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso.
It is a telephone service line that started from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., with two telephone operators and an agent (this one only in the morning), with the task of forwarding the call to the police if they consider that the cases require it and are urgent. The regional government then promised that there would be an operational night shift “soon”. In the same note, the Community pointed out that there were 4,300 homes affected by the “serious problem” of occupation, a figure that has hardly changed in the last five years, and that the authorities recognize that they mostly affect real estate owned by banks.