Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Welcome to Pioz: Snowy mountains, castles and a whole lot of debt

July 19, 2012 -- Updated 1805 GMT (0205 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pioz is saddled with €16 million of debt, making it Spain's most indebted town
  • Today, only 3,500 people live in housing estates designed for 25,000
  • The country's property boom went bust in 2007, and now 20% of Spanish homes lie empty
  • The banking sector has €186 billion-worth of troubled real estate assets on its books

(CNN) -- The Spanish town of Pioz boasts views of snow-capped mountains, a 15th-century castle, and a swimming pool for locals to bathe in -- but residents are in short supply.

Pioz has become a ghost town, a haunting reminder of the country's continuing property crisis.

Pioz is saddled with €16 million of debt, making it Spain's most indebted town. Thousands of newly-built homes remain empty and vandalized years after they were built, other projects are simply unfinished and unpaid for.

The town is in the municipality of Guadalajara, just an hour's drive from Madrid, but commuters weren't lured in by the new-build homes. Today, only 3,500 people live in these housing estates designed for 25,000.

The Spanish property boom went bust in 2007, and now 20% of Spanish homes lie empty. The banking sector has €186 billion-worth of troubled real estate assets on its books.

It is easier to grasp the impact of these statistics when standing on a street in Pioz. Row upon row of identical homes stand empty, complete with boarded-up windows, peeling plaster, hanging electrical cables and falling down "For Sale" signs.

Spain's housing boom and bust

At the heart of the town stands an iconic 15th-century castle; despite the ravages of time it appears to be in better shape than many of the newer crumbling homes that surround it.

However, looks can be deceiving. "It's falling down," said ex-Mayor Amelia Rodriguez, "we were thinking of doing some restoration work on it, but owing to the crisis it is not possible. We will leave it until one day when we can."

Elsewhere in the town lie newer constructions: A €1 million community swimming pool that had just one bather on CNN's visit, a €500,000 medical center and a €12 million sewage and water treatment plant, neither of which can be used due to lack of funds for running costs.

According to Juan Yunta, the Director of Public Works in Pioz, the €400,000 toxic waste plant, subsidized by the European Union and Department of Industry, has problems that don't stop at the running costs -- there is a dispute over who actually owns the land.

"Everything has been built on land which doesn't even belong to the town hall," he said. "Fiasco? As far as I know fiasco is when something breaks, like a natural disaster, this is something far greater -- this is utter madness."

Amelia Rodriguez has been the mayor of Pioz for just over a year, but since CNN visited has been ousted from office by the previous mayor Emilio Rincon and six councilors.

She hopes that future town planners and property developers will learn from their mistakes. "As the money came into the town hall, they didn't realize it would ever stop," she said.

"The good times do come to an end. We'll go back to the good times, but for now we must wait. I hope this is a lesson for everyone."

CNN's Anna Stewart contributed to this article

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
November 14, 2013 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1741 GMT (0141 HKT)
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.
ADVERTISEMENT