The European pandemic recovery program COVID-19 (Next Generation EU), includes the Mechanism for Recovery and Resilience (MRR).
This Recovery Plan has among its priorities in 2021 the financing of housing rehabilitation programs for an amount of 1,550 million euros, an amount that is already included in the draft General State Budget.
The European investment requires public-private collaboration so the Autonomous Communities (recipients of the funds) will only be able to partially finance the rehabilitation works, with the rest of the financing falling on the Communities of Owners.
From 2014 to 2020 Spain has only executed 34% of the structural funds, we are the country in the European Union that has spent the least percentage of the budget.
Even with the announced decree law to “eliminate bottlenecks”, it is very likely that the Communities of Owners, which do not have agile mechanisms for decision-making (nor have they been enabled in the COVI-19 crisis), will not help to make management more agile, quite the opposite.
“It is necessary to amend the Horizontal Property Law of 1960 to allow asynchronous online voting in the Communities of Owners to speed up the approval of these reform budgets.”
This is also the majority wish of the Communities of Owners
The consultation “Democracy in Communities of Owners” in which more than 2,000 homeowners participate highlights that:
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More than 74% would like to be able to participate and vote online as well (85% of those under 65).
- Online participation would increase overall participation (would increase online participation and would not affect in-person participation).
- Increased participation would decrease conflicts between owners and improve transparency, quality and agility of decisions
- Increases the “Community Sense”
Owners’ communities copied 4% of all judicial processes in the country (about 80,000 cases per year according to CGCAF) in 2015, which generated economic costs of 230 million euros (4% of the justice budget) and social costs such as overloading the judicial system, communities unable to attend to necessary works (accessibility, energy efficiency, maintenance) and problems of coexistence between neighbors.
Obsolete legislation contributing to the collapse of the judicial system
The Horizontal Property Law was published in the Official State Gazette No. 176 of 1960, at that time there was no possibility to interact or work online. New articles have been introduced in reference to new types of property and for the regulation of tourist apartments (2019), but very little progress has been made in the democratic quality of decisions.
In 1999 the possibility of having sufficient majorities at the second call of the owners’ meeting without the need for a quorum (minimum attendance) and the possibility of delegating the vote to another attendee at the owners’ meeting was introduced, albeit in writing.
It is necessary a reform of the Horizontal Property Law, affecting the need to authorize online means for; the notifications, the electronic signature, the remote attendance to the owners’ meetings and the synchronous online voting (at the same time of celebration of the meeting) and especially asynchronous (before its celebration).
Synchronous vs. asynchronous voting
Participating by videoconference in the owners’ meetings has only been allowed in Catalonia as a result of the COVID’s supervening circumstances. The Catalan Generalitat approved a Decree-Law 26/2020 that has as prerequisites: the identification of the attendees, the continuity of the communication, the possibility of intervening in the deliberations and the emission of the vote.
In order to be effective, the owners’ meeting does not have to be synchronous (at the same time), apart from the tremendous mess that an online neighbors’ meeting can produce: “the sound does not connect”, “I can’t speak”, “they have skipped my turn”, etc… In fact, the best decisions are made asynchronously according to research led by Raquel Benbunan-Fich. In asynchronous communication, more useful information is generated, there is more time for reflection and decisions are of better quality.
It is becoming more and more common to record a voice message instead of making a phone call, as it is less invasive, you listen when you want to and you can reflect on the response
Bingham Powell has already argued that increased participation in deliberative processes reduces conflict.
In Spain, 76% of people own their homes and 84% live in a Community of Owners. Allowing asynchronous online voting is a good idea for 74% of these citizens.
Inaction will have multi-million dollar consequences, but also social consequences.
Many homeowners’ communities have not met due to COVD-19 for more than 9 months.
In addition to the fact that the impossibility of making agile decisions in the communities of owners faces us with the certain possibility of not being able to execute the 1,550 million euros of the housing rehabilitation program, there are necessary works that are being postponed:
– Installation of elevators in the famous “prison apartments” that condemn people with mobility problems to not going out to the street.
– Universal accessibility works.
– Energy rehabilitation of buildings that can reduce energy poverty.
– Necessary maintenance for health and safety.
– Necessary maintenance for the security of the building.
– Resolution of coexistence problems.
– Electric mobility installations.
The COVID takes citizens away from the streets and keeps them longer in their homes, it is essential for economic, social and coexistence reasons to improve decision making in the Communities of Owners and update a law that is clearly obsolete.