• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Spain has empty homes for all EU's homeless'

The Local · 25 Feb 2014, 10:29

Published: 25 Feb 2014 10:29 GMT+01:00

Europe’s growing problem of homelessness could be solved at a stroke, say campaigners.

They point to the findings of a new study which has revealed that there are 11 million empty properties across Europe, including 3.4 million in Spain which tops the charts as the continent's worst offender.

In their opinion, all that needs to happen is a handover of some of these empty homes to people who are living on the streets.

The study was carried out by several organisations fighting against homelessness and was published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper this week.

With 3.4 million vacant homes, Spain has more than Italy, estimated to have 2.2 million empty properties, and Germany, which has slightly less at 1.8 million.  

The UK has around 700,000 empty residential properties which could potentially be occupied while Ireland has 400,000 and Portugal 735,000.

Freek Spinnewijn from FEANTSA, a European-wide organisation that brings together national bodies fighting against homelessness, told The Guardian: “Even half of these empty properties would be enough to stop people from having to sleep in the streets.

"Governments should do as much as possible to put empty homes on the market. The problem of homelessness is getting worse across the whole of the European Union. The best way to resolve it is to put empty homes on the market."

The blame for the empty properties in Spain has been laid squarely at the feet of the housing market and its investors.

Spain's construction bubble in the decade before the beginning of the financial crisis was "fed largely by Britons and Germans buying homes in the sun," according to the report, leading to prices rising by 44 percent between 2004 and 2008.

Building companies worked at breakneck speed to create up to 800,000 new properties a year to keep pace with demand.

The 3.4 million empty homes in Spain represent 14 percent of all properties, according to last year's Spanish census.

Vacant houses and even entire 'ghost towns' can be found in parts of Spain after being abandoned by construction companies.

The problem is most acute in holiday resorts, some of which are still suffering from non-occupancy rates of over 30 percent some five years after the start of the economic crisis.

Part of the problem lies with Spain's high unemployment rate which has left many people unable to pay their mortgages. Repossessions of homes by banks has become a huge social issue in Spain, leading to mass protests and demonstrations.

Many local campaigners have demanded changes to the Spanish which leaves homeowners liable for mortgage payments even after losing their properties.

As banks continue to receive income, there is less pressure on them to put the houses back on the market.

Story continues below…

María José Aldanas of Spanish housing and homelessness association Provivienda told The Guardian: "Spain is suffering from high numbers of repossessions and evictions, so we have reached a point where we have too many people without a home and many homes without people."

Banks have been accused of sitting on empty properties rather than lowering prices to sell them.

Critics say that this is done deliberately  to artificially inflate the assets column of banks' accounts above true market value.

In the north-east region of Catalonia, some councils have reportedly warned banks that they will be fined by up to €100,000 ($138,000) if repossessed homes remain empty for over two years while others have threatened that they will be compelled to hand them over for use as social housing.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Beach closed after shark attack in southern Spain
Arenas del Sol beach in Elche was packed at the time. Photo: VisitElche.com

A man was bitten on the hand in a suspected shark attack at a beach on the Costa Blanca on Friday prompting authorities to ban swimming as a precaution.

Madrid ups ante against Catalan separatist lawmakers
Independence flags in Catalonia. Photo: AFP

Spain wants to nullify a text approved by Catalonia's parliament urging the region to push ahead with its independence drive, warning separatist lawmakers of severe consequences.

The good, bad and the ugly of long distance relationships
Are their advantages to loving from afar? Photo: MsSaraKelly / Flickr

Dating guru Sally Fazakerley gives us the lowdown on what it is really like to endure a long-distance relationship.

Thousands hunt Pokémon Go in Madrid to break record
Pokémon fans gather in Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Photo: AFP

It may only have been officially launched in Spain two weeks ago but already Pokémon Go already has so many fans here that Madrid set a world record.

Manhunt in Spain for abductor of teenager in Britain
Have you seen this couple? Photo: Metropolitan Police

A European Arrest Warrant has been issued for a Romanian 27-year-old accused of abducting a teenage girl from East London.

Barcelona unveils 'shame counter' of refugee deaths
Not just a number. Photo: AFP

The counter will update with each refugee victim who drowns at sea.

Spain's King Felipe VI tasks Rajoy with forming new govt
Rajoy in parliament last week. Photo: AFP

Can Rajoy do it or will there be third elections in Spain?

The Local list
Ten great reasons to discover the real Malaga right now
Malaga's modern port. Photo: Nick Kenrick/Flickr

Don't just fly into the airport and head straight for a beach resort. Here is why Malaga is now a destination in its own right.

Summer jobs bring Spanish unemployment to six-year low
Spain's tourism boom creates summer jobs. Photo: AFP

Spain's jobless rate slipped to 20 percent in the second quarter of 2016, as the tourism boom provided much needed seasonal work.

Weather
Heatwave continues and then Spain's set for sand storms
Keeping cool in a Madrid fountain. Photo: AFP

Across Spain, 22 provinces are on alert for extreme heat as temperatures soar to above 42 C.

National
7 reasons why grandparents in Spain are simply the best
Travel
Barcelona bans Segways from tourist clogged waterfront
National
Spain pays €300m each year in pensions… to dead people
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Police issue guidelines as Pokémon craze sweeps Spain
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Another dodgy art restoration raises alarm in Spain
National
Watch: Man in wheelchair zooms past Barcelona traffic
National
Woof! How to find dog-friendly beaches in Spain
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Travel
Tourist sparks bomb scare by locking suitcase to park bench
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Technology
Five brilliant apps to help improve your Spanish
National
Top ten tricks to survive the Spanish summer
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Off the beaten track: 14 best kept travel secrets in Spain
International
Keep calm and wait and see: Advice for expats post-Brexit
Features
Top 10 Spanish treats to keep you cool in summer
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
'I've had best time ever' insists American gored in bull run
Health
How to avoid heatstroke when Spain starts to sizzle
International
Champion of expat property rights in Spain awarded gong
National
Scorchio! Heat warnings issued across Spain
National
Brits demand dual citizenship for expats in Spain post Brexit
Sport
Spanish matador gored to death in the ring
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Lifestyle
Eleven types of men you might typically date in Spain
National
Spanish police rescue British teen trapped by dad in house for two years
Features
Seven burning questions for British expats about Brexit
Technology
Six free apps to simplify your summer in Spain
3,276
jobs available