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HOUSING

Spain gives away empty villages for free

Like thousands of abandoned villages in Spain, A Barca — with its 12 crumbling stone homes covered in moss and ivy — is seeking a new owner to bring it back to life.

Spain gives away empty villages for free
Avelino Luis de Francisco Martinez, the mayor of Cortegada, walking by the ruins of a house in the abandoned village of A Barca, Galicia. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

Local officials in Spain's verdant northwestern region of Galicia hope to give away the hamlet, which is nestled in a hillside overlooking the Mino river near the Portuguese border.

The successful applicant must present a development project for the village, which dates back to the 15th century, that will preserve all of its buildings.

Several proposals have already been made but Avelino Luis de Francisco Martinez, the mayor of Cortegada, the municipality that oversees A Barca, said he would prefer a tourism project.

“Something that would provide work to villagers and local businesses,” he said.

The residents of A Barca left in the 1960s when a dam was built, which flooded their farmland.

But most of Spain's abandoned hamlets have been deserted by residents who moved to larger cities or better land for farming.

Spain's National Statistics Institute estimates that there are around 2,900 empty villages across the country, according to Rafael Canales, the manager of a website specializing in the sale of deserted hamlets called aldeasabandonadas.com.

Over half are in Galicia, a largely rural region that is home to the famous pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela, and the neighbouring region of Asturias.

Spain's lengthy economic downturn, which has sent the jobless rate soaring to just over 26 percent, has pushed more owners to put their properties up for sale.

“We count as our clients many writers, painters or rural tourism professionals,” said Canales.

Mark Adkinson, the British manager of a rival online portal called galicianrustic.com, said his company had identified 400 abandoned villages in the eastern part of Galicia alone.

When Adkinson, who is based 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Cortegada, finds an empty village he starts searching for its owners.

The task is sometimes difficult, even impossible.

Often the owners of abandoned properties moved away long ago and have not been heard from since. In other cases property deeds have been lost and can't easily be found.

“It also happens sometimes that owners themselves come to us and propose putting their property up for sale,” said Adkinson, a former livestock breeder from Lancashire who has lived in Galicia for nearly three decades.

The abandoned villages are especially appealing to foreigners like Neil Christie, a 60-year-old retired Briton who used to work in television.

He bought three stone houses and a granary raised on rock pillars — typical in the northwest of Spain — that make up the hamlet of Arrunada in Asturias for €45,000 ($62,000).

Christie has spent the past four years restoring the main house, located amid green pastures some 30 kilometres south of the Atlantic coast.

He hopes to move in at the end of the year.

“I wanted to flee the stress of London. This was just a bunch of ruins. But I would never be able to buy something similar in England,” he said.

“It is a very pretty region. People are very nice. There is a real quality of life,” he added.

Britons are among the foreigners who have shown the most interest in buying Spain's abandoned hamlets.

But Norwegians, Americans, Germans, Russians and even Mexicans have also made purchases, said real estate agent Jose Armando Rodil Lopez.

“In general, once you cross the barrier of €80,000, the potential buyers are foreigners,” he explained during a tour of the hamlet of Pena Vella, also in the Asturias.

The hamlet, which is on sale for €62,000, is made up of five stone houses with slate roofs surrounded by pine and eucalyptus trees.

“A family used to live here. Some of them made knives, others were carpenters and farmers,” said Rodil Lopez.

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HOUSING

Spain to give young mid-income earners €250 monthly rental allowance 

Spain’s Prime Minister announced on Tuesday his government will launch a housing scheme whereby 18 to 35 year olds who earn below €23,725 gross per year will be able to get a monthly discount of €250 off their rent.

Spain to give young mid-income earners €250 monthly rental allowance 
The average Spaniard leaves the nest at 29.5 years of age. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez made the announcement during an Urban Affairs Forum in the southern city of Seville, referring to it as a “special plan” aimed at ensuring the emancipation of young people in the country.

“We’re going to create a youth housing benefit of €250 per month for the next two years which will benefit young people between 18 and 35 years old with incomes below €23,725,” Sánchez stated, meaning that these tenants will be able to claim a maximum of €6,000 in total.

The most vulnerable families will receive extra state aid to cover “up to 40 percent” of their monthly rent.

The income limit of €23,725 gross earnings a year amounts to wages of around €1,500 net a month. 

According to a September survey by Spanish property engine Fotocasa, 62 percent of under 35s in Spain face financial obstacles when buying or renting a property.

“We’re going to allocate a public policy specifically to reduce the age of emancipation which is so unbearably high in our country, so that young people can have access to decent rental housing,” Spain’s PM explained. 

The average Spaniard leaves the nest at 29.5 years of age, the sixth latest bloomers in Europe, where the average age of emancipation is 26.2 years old.

Sánchez’s announcement comes just as the Spanish left-wing coalition government of PSOE and Unidas Podemos have agreed on Spain’s Housing Budget for 2022, although the new legislation still has to be approved by the Spanish Cabinet. 

This is likely to include new measures aimed at placing price caps on rentals in Spain, based on a price index put together by Spain’s Ministry of Transport and Urban Affairs.

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