Property in Spain For Members

Squatting in Spain: Which regions have the worst 'okupa' problems? 

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
Squatting in Spain: Which regions have the worst 'okupa' problems? 
A graffiti on a rooftop in Barcelona reads "Occupy and resist". Catalonia and Barcelona province in particular have the biggest number of squatters, according to government dataPhoto: Makunin/Pixabay

Squatting grew by 18 percent in 2021 in Spain, an illicit trend born from the country's housing issues and which sees many 'okupas' (squatters) exploit Spain's lenient legislation. Here are the regions which have the biggest number of squatters as well as differing opinions on how serious Spain's squatting problem really is.


Squatting has been a highly divisive issue in Spain in recent years.

On the one hand, there are more than 3.4 million empty properties across the country (according to the latest government census) and an increasing number of Spanish families can’t face high rents or pay mortgage payments in an unstable job market. 

On the other hand, critics say there are too many legal obstacles which hinder squatters' speedy eviction, which okupas who are not necessarily struggling financially are well aware of and duly exploit.

And it’s not just millionaires and investment companies who have been locked out of their properties, but ordinary people who have worked hard to buy a second home.

Even though squatting has been around in Spain long before the pandemic, the data suggests that the problem got worse last year. 


In September 2021, there were a total of 13,389 okupaciones (illegal home occupations) across Spain, according to the latest Interior Ministry stats, an 18 percent rise in the first eight months of the year. 

This increase coincides with the Spanish government’s decision in January 2021 to give greater protection to the country’s squatters while the state of emergency was ongoing, especially for those who had occupied properties owned by banks or large property owners, and if the squatters were deemed to be low earners or had a minor in their care. 

Where in Spain is squatting worse?

Catalonia continues to be the region with the highest number of okupas, with the 5,689 properties that are illegally occupied according to the Interior Ministry’s report, accounting for 42 percent of the total nationwide. The rise in squatting in Catalonia between January and September 2021 was 9 percent and the province of Barcelona accounts for 4,229 of the okupaciones

Andalusia in southern Spain saw an 11 percent increase in squatting between January and September of last year and now has 1,994 houses taken over by squatters. Ansalusian authorities have recently banned okupas on police records from being able to buy subsidised housing (VPO) in the southern region.

The Community of Madrid has the third highest number of properties with squatters in them with 1,282 cases, following a 24 percent rise over the first eight months of 2021. 

In Castilla-La Mancha, which now has 606 illegal occupations, the trend has grown by 31 percent, in Murcia with 476 cases it went up by 69.5 percent in 2021, in the Balearic Islands the total of 407 okupaciones comes after a huge rise of 73.9 percent, and the Canary Islands has 406 occupied homes, although the rate fell by 14.3 percent.

Other regions with a smaller number of squatters have also seen big proportional increases in 2021: Castilla y León now has 239 cases (+62.6 percent), Aragón has 202 illegal squats (+33.8 percent), the same as in the Basque Country (+16.1 percent); Galicia has okupas in 147 properties (+8.1 percent), Extremadura has 116 (+46.8 percent ) and Navarra 100 (+44.9 percent), and the rest of Spain's regions have under 100 occupied homes.

The Spanish Interior Ministry’s Statistical Crime System (SEC) has been monitoring squatting cases in Spain since 2015, and according to their data, the problem was worse seven years ago than it is now, as their records show there were 22,461 occupied homes in 2015 compared to 13,389 by September 2021.

But according to Spain’s National Organisation of People Affected by Squatting (ONAO), a group created in 2020 to face the "unstoppable advance" of "this criminal phenomenon", the government is vastly underreporting the actual number of homes being occupied in Spain.

ONAO estimates there are as many as 120,000 properties occupied by squatters across Spain at present.

Squatting, they believe, affects over a million Spaniards, and is a trend on the rise at a rate of 40 new squats reported a day in the last year.

"Squatters in Spain used to belong to far-left groups, anarchists who occupied homes for ideology. There was also a small group of poor, vulnerable people who squatted out of necessity and lack of help from the government,” ONAO president Toni Miranda told Spanish daily 20 minutos. 


“But with the Spanish government’s changes that favour squatting, criminal mafias have joined in to profit from invading homes and charging rent”.

Government data reveals that in 2020 alone, there were 14,675 complaints filed with police in Spain involving misappropriation and breaking and entering cases by squatters, somewhat calling into question the Interior Ministry’s total figure of 13,389 home occupations in Spain currently.

It's also important to factor in on how long homes remain illegally occupied for. There’s a growing number of asesorías de okupación, anti-squatting ‘consultancy’ businesses that help clients get the squatters out of their homes without having to take the matter to court. 

These anti-squatting services are proliferating and are now present in cities such as Murcia, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid and Zaragoza, among others.

Incidentally, there is also a growing organised underground network of ‘squatter offices’ (known in Spanish as a oficinas de okupación) that actually offer legal and practical advice for those wanting to occupy a property.

According to Spanish sociologist and author Emmanuel Rodríguez, Spain’s squatting problem isn’t as bad as it’s been portrayed in the media, claiming instead that police stats reveal that the majority of occupied homes in Spain belong to banks and that higher home ownership rates in the country make the problem appear more serious than elsewhere in Europe.

"Fear of home occupation is an abstract fear as the chances of squatters entering your privately-owned or empty home are very low,"  Rodríguez told El Faro Radio, referring to the total number 25 million properties that exist in Spain, 3.4 million of which are empty. 



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also