The washbasin in Juana Alonso's bathroom is brand new, but no water comes out of the tap. No bulbs hang from the light fittings.

The house is unfinished; no one was meant to be moving in -- but Juana couldn't wait.

Along with dozens of neighbours, desperate victims of Spain's recession brought on by the collapse of the housing boom, she has moved into an abandoned building project on the outskirts of her town, Bollullos Par Del Condado, in sweltering southern Andalucia.

"I got to the point where I couldn't pay the rent. It was impossible. This place was open, so we came in and here we are," says Juana, 53, an unemployed care assistant, smoking wearily on her doorstep.

On the edge of a green field where horses graze, Juana and her neighbours found this mini estate of more than 70 elegantly painted three-bedroom houses, empty and partly plundered.

She says about 70 families have moved into the estate in the past three weeks, into houses that are all but finished but lack water and electricity.

"I'm hoping something will budge and they'll give us light and water and an affordable rent," she said, red-faced and sweating in the 40-degree heat. "That's all we're asking for. We're humans, not dogs."

Some of the houses have missing doors and toilets, but all at least have a roof to shield their occupants from the beating sun of early summer.

Like countless projects across Spain, the site was abandoned by property developers when the bank loans dried up in the 2008 financial crisis. Local authorities have remained silent on the status of the site.

Unlike many of Spain's so-called "ghost towns", life has returned to this one, in the form of local families ruined by the crisis.

In a farming region where unemployment is nearly 37 percent -- high above Spain's huge overall rate of 27 percent -- these empty lodgings have drawn the poorest of Spain's poor.

Andalucia's left-wing regional government in April passed a measure to temporarily block evictions from homes belonging to banks or real estate firms and allow poor families to stay in them for a modest rent.

The measure also imposes fines between 1,000 and 9,000 euros ($1,300 and $12,000) on banks and real estate firms that hold on to empty homes which are fit to live, in a bid to increase the pool of affordable housing.

It came too late for Juana and her neighbours, who say they are now waiting for the authorities to tell them whether they can stay in the unfinished houses.

A few doors down from Juana, Toni Garcia, 23, sits on a chair outside the house she has occupied. Her three-month baby lies in her lap, dressed only in a nappy in the choking heat, sucking milk from a bottle.

Nearby, neighbours fill buckets from a great plastic barrel -- water with which to wash or make coffee, using food and kitchen supplies donated by charities.

"We had to come here because we had no other choice," says Toni, who used to work as a farm labourer in the region's rich olive groves. "I don't mind sleeping on a park bench, but I don't want that for my children. I at least want them to have a roof over them."

Brought on by a building boom going bust, the crisis has made many homeless while also, ironically, leaving countless near-finished properties ripe for squatting.

There are at least 700,000 empty homes in Andalucia, according to the regional government.

"We were paying 225 euros a month, which is the cheapest rent you can find. But since I'm not earning and neither is my partner, they were going to throw us out" of our previous home, says Toni.

"We saw all the doors open here and realised there was no one in the houses. These houses were just going to fall to pieces," she says. "So we moved in."

Her neighbour Jose Manuel Rodriguez, 34, stands frowning in the bare hallway of the house he has occupied with his partner and his 11-year-old daughter.

He used to work in the strawberry fields that cover much of the surrounding Huelva area, but work has dried up.

"We entered here without causing any damage, quite the opposite," he says.

"We called the police and the town hall, telling them that we are here. We said all we want is to negotiate a dignified solution, a home -- either in this house or another," he adds.

"Let the town hall or the regional government, or whoever this place belongs to, get a move on and find a solution to this social problem."

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  • General view taken on August 30, 2012 shows unfinished apartment buildings in Malaga. Despite slashing prices by up to 60 percent, Spanish savings bank Cajamar has sold only half of the flats at a luxury block it owns on Spain's Costa del Sol. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages)

  • General view taken on August 30, 2012 shows unfinished apartment buildings in Malaga. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Construction equipment lies abandoned near unfinished homes on a stalled residential housing project in Avila, Spain, on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Spain, Europe's fifth-largest economy, is the current focus of attempts to contain the region's sovereign debt crisis, as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy struggles to quell speculation it will need a bailout. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Construction equipment lies abandoned near unfinished homes on a stalled residential housing project in Avila, Spain, on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • A children's play area stands near unfinished homes on a stalled residential housing project in Avila, Spain, on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Construction equipment lies abandoned near unfinished homes on a stalled residential housing project in Avila, Spain, on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Unfinished residential developments stand dormant on July 5, 2012 in Ciudad Valdeluz, Spain. The new city of Ciudad Valdeluz, 60km from Madrid, was originally intended to be home to 30,000 people however it currently has only approximately 700 residents. Despite having the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone, the economic situation in Spain remains troubled with their unemployment rate the highest of any Eurozone country. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • General view taken on August 30, 2012 shows unfinished apartment buildings in Marbella. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Newly build unfinished homes on November 30, 2012 in Villacanas, Spain. During the boom years, where in its peak Spain built some 800,000 houses a year accompanied by the manufacturing of millions of wooden doors, the people of Villacanas were part of Spain's middle class enjoying high wages and permanent jobs. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • A playground for children stands backdropped by unfinished homes on November 30, 2012 in Villacanas, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

  • General view taken on August 30, 2012 shows unfinished apartment in Malaga. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A road sign stands near the concrete structure of unfinished housing under construction in Arroyomolinos, near Madrid, Spain, on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012. Photographer: Angel Navarrete/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • General view taken on August 30, 2012 shows an unfinished apartment in Benalmadena. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Unfinished houses stand amid recently finished ones in the newly contructed Viator suburb on April 4, 2009 in the coastal town of Almeria, southeast Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)