The Pinós City Council, in Solsonès (Lleida) is carrying out several projects to attract new families to the municipality and avoid depopulation.
The council has promoted the rehabilitation of homes that will put them on the market at affordable rent and is also looking for new owners to run the bar in the center of Vallmanya, which has been closed for five years. All of this with the aim of attracting new neighbors to the town, which currently has about 300 inhabitants but had once had a thousand.
The mayor of Pinós, Xavier Vilalta, explains that these initiatives also want to serve to give life to the rural school of Ardèvol, which currently has 14 students. "Having the school open is the way to fix people", assures Vilalta.
Carme Fontanals and Juan Pablo Catalano are a couple who settled in Pinós a month and a half ago. They were the family selected to occupy one of the accommodations that the City Council has rehabilitated and put up for rent for a price of 400 euros. The condition was that his three children had to go to the town school. At the moment there are two, one still goes to kindergarten.
They had moved to Torá three years ago, before that they lived in Barcelona. "In Barcelona you always have to watch with four eyes and you constantly bump into people. Here the children feel free," explains Fontanals.
Another of the benefits of living in the rural world is, for them, "the peace and harmony" that is breathed in the town, as well as the prices: "When we saw the offer we didn't think about it. We jumped at it" not at all. .
Catalano says that in Barcelona for 400 euros they would not even find a room. "To live with a family in Barcelona, you have to earn a lot of money," he says. In Pinós, on the other hand, for that price they have a three-bedroom house with a garage and a large patio: "The children open the door of the house and their patio is the entire town."
Apart from the home in which this couple already resides, the City Council is rehabilitating two more. On the one hand, work is being done to renovate one of the town's old schools - Pinós had had two - which has been closed for more than thirty years.
In this building there will be housing for a family with children. On the other hand, the rehabilitation of a second home that is linked to the restaurant in the center of Vallmanya, closed five years ago, is also being completed. The family that occupies this home will have to pay a rent of 400 euros per month that will give them the right to manage the restaurant. All of this has been partially financed with the Generalitat's pilot program to rehabilitate homes in rural areas.
The mayor also calls on the owners of farmhouses and homes that are in poor condition to rehabilitate them and put them on the rental market.
"Many neighbors are reluctant to fix up the houses and put them on the market because they are afraid of who will come and that means that a lot of housing that could be made available is not on the market," Vilalta laments. In fact, in Pinós a private owner has also benefited from the Generalitat's pilot test.
The mayor of Pinós, Xavier Vilalta, explains that they have long ago decided to implement proposals to avoid depopulation: "Piños is a very extensive municipality with five towns. Now there are 300 inhabitants but there had been more than a thousand. Although the population is stabilized, we continue to go down. For this reason, the municipality wants to attract, mainly, families who give life to the town and allow the Ardèvol school to remain open.
Until now the center had 12 students. With the arrival of Carme and Juan Pablo they have risen to 14. Although now the school is not in danger, Vilalta says that we must always be alert and assures that Pinós' commitment to maintaining the school "is clear." In fact, since this year a daycare center with only three students has also been running.
The school director, Caterina Venavides, explains that Ardèvol is one of the smallest centers in the ZER Solsonès and that the numbers are always between 11 and 15 students.
The director says that it is "very important" that there is "a commitment to keeping schools open." "In a rural area like this, a school is very important because if you close it you lose life," she argues.
Venavides explains that the school ends up being a "very important service" for the town, since it provides "territorial cohesion."
"When we organize a party we invite everyone, the school is very rooted. Here our patio is the entire town and when the neighbors pass by they greet you, you are one of the family," he explains.
The mayor of Pinós also believes that to fix people in the territory and guarantee territorial balance, it is necessary for the Government and higher administrations to make a commitment to small municipalities.
"The budget we have only serves us for our ordinary operations and, therefore, without the subsidies we cannot do anything," explains Vilalta. "A school in the rural world will never have the students of a metropolitan school and a road here will not have the same volume of vehicles as in a more populated area," explains the mayor, who adds: "If we want to keep the territory alive , there is no other solution than to bet on him."
Vilalta has also been very critical of the bureaucratic obstacles they encounter when requesting subsidies and says that "many times" they have had to resign because they did not have sufficient means to carry out the procedures.
"Here we only have one person working at City Hall," he laments. For this reason, he calls on higher administrations to "make everything easier": "It seemed that with telematic procedures everything would be easier, but it has been the other way around, it is a non-life and we are increasingly supervised."