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PROPERTY

How foreigners can access social housing in Spain

Which foreigners can apply for social housing in Spain? What are the requirements in the different regions and how do you go about applying for this benefit?

How foreigners can access social housing in Spain
There are slightly different ways to apply for social housing in Spain depending on the region you live in. Photo: CometoCatalonia/Unsplash

Social housing or Vivienda de Protección Oficial (VPO) as it’s called in Spain is a type of housing benefit for low earners, allowing you to access subsidised apartments or houses to rent or buy.

But are foreigners able to apply for these or is it only for Spanish nationals?

Can foreigners apply?

Yes, as long as you are legally resident in Spain, have all the necessary residency documents such as TIE or green residency certificate and meet all the specific requirements, such as low income. 

In fact, according to the stats for 2018, 25 percent of people who applied for social housing in Spain were foreigners. 

However, each region in Spain has slightly different requirements and some have established a minimum residency period, so all foreigners may not be able to apply in all regions. It will depend on your individual circumstances.

How much does social housing cost in Spain?

The price discount for VPO housing isn’t fixed and is adjusted regularly by Spain’s regional governments but the following table by the Spanish General Council of Notaries reflects the difference in price per square metre between vivienda libre (VL, free housing) and vivienda de protección oficial (VPO, social housing). 

The difference in prices between free and social housing across Spain’s regions from November 2020 to November 2021. Source: Spain’s General Council of Notaries

What are the requirements?

As mentioned above, each region in Spain has slightly different requirements, but in general, they are:

  • You must be of legal age
  • You must be legally registered in your region
  • You cannot already own your own home 
  • Your income as a family must not exceed 5.5 times the IPREM

The IPREM for 2022 is €579.02 per month, so for example, in order to qualify, your household income cannot exceed €3,181.61 per month.

You must be able to prove your income with a certificate from the tax agency, as well as the income of all members of your family unit.

apartments in Spain

People with a high income will generally not be able to access social housing in Spain. Photo: Daniel Álvasd / Unsplash

How do I apply?

There are slightly different ways to apply depending on the region you live in. Here, we’ll cover some of the main regions popular with foreign residents. 

Andalusia

In Andalusia, if you want to buy social housing your income as a family must not exceed 5.5 times the IPREM. However, if you want to rent social housing, your income must not exceed 2.5 times the IPREM. And if you want rent housing with the option of buying it later, it cannot exceed 3.5 times the IPREM. 

In order to apply for social housing in Andalusia, you must first register in the Municipal Register of Protected Housing Claimants. You can do this through your local municipality by visiting your Ayuntamiento or Town Hall. If you don’t want to physically go into your Ayuntamiento, you can also apply through the website of your local one. 

Your registration will last three years with the possibility of renewing it. Any changes to your circumstances must be communicated within a maximum period of three months.

Balearic Islands

In order to be eligible to apply in the Balearic Islands, you must have been a resident there for at least one year. 

First, you need to inscribe yourself on the Public Register of Protected Housing Claimants and will need to be able to prove your marital status, residency, income or employment status.

You can either apply online here using your Digital Certificate or you can print out the form, fill it in and send it to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, located on Calle La Palma, 4, Palma de Mallorca, or to any of the other IBAVI offices.

Canary Islands 

As well as the general requisites, in the Canary Islands, your family income cannot exceed 1.5 times the IPREM for homes for rent and up to 2.5 times the IPREM for those for sale. 

In order to apply, you must register on the Public Registry of Claimants of Protected Homes of the Canary Islands here

Catalonia

Besides the general requisites, the Housing Agency of Catalonia says that applicants also have to prove their need for social housing, as well as show that they are able to fulfill their contract.

You can simply apply online here.  

Madrid

The Community of Madrid has several types of social housing and depending on which you want, the requirements vary.

In the case of Housing with Basic Public Protection (VPPB), your family income cannot exceed 5.5 times the IPREM; while in the case of leasing a house with purchase option (VPPL), your family income cannot exceed 7.5 times the IPREM.

You must also be disabled or have a large family if you want to access housing dedicated to those groups. 

In order to rent social housing, you can apply online here and in order to be able to buy social housing, you can apply here

Murcia 

In the Region of Murcia, to access social housing you must register in the Registry of Housing Claimants. Your family income must not exceed 6.5 times the IPREM and you must use the property as your habitual and permanent residence.

Like in some other regions, you cannot own your own home, unless it is inadequate for your needs or has been damaged in some way. 

You can apply online here

Valencia

The Valencian region distinguishes between public social housing, those that are newly built through private initiatives, and public promotion housing which is aimed at families, individuals and groups with limited economic resources.

In order to qualify for public social housing, you are allowed to own another property, but only if it does not meet the minimum conditions of habitability or if it needs to be adapted for disabilities. Your family income cannot exceed 4.5 times the IPREM.   

In the case of publicly promoted housing, you cannot have a family income greater than 2.5 times the IPREM, except in the case of contract renewal, when the maximum limit will be 3.5 times this amount. 

You can register for it here.

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For members

RENTING IN SPAIN

How to rent a property in Spain without a job contract

When looking to rent in Spain, property owners and estate agents often ask for a 'nómina' and work contract - something that can prove tricky if you're self-employed or not working. Here's how to prove your solvency and secure the rental.

How to rent a property in Spain without a job contract

If you’re looking for a house or apartment to rent in Spain, there can be a multitude of different factors to consider.

The price, the size, the location, the neighbourhood, which floor the flat is, on and whether there’s a lift, whether it’s interior or exterior, how many apartments there are per floor, whether to go private or through an estate agents and, of course, the search itself.

When you’re going on visits, you’ll have to contend not only with owner or agent trying to ‘sell you’ the place, but also explaining the terms and conditions (often referred to as las condiciones or requisitos para entrar).

In Spain, the process can be a little complicated. Often landlords ask for two months deposit upfront, and those that go through an intermediary estate agent tend to ask for two months, plus an extra month (plus VAT, or IVA as it is in Spain) that goes to the agent! It certainly adds up. 

Not only that, but very often in Spain you are expected to prove you will be able to pay your rent every month. And it’s not as simple as you might think. 

Most estate agents or landlords think hat the best way to ascertain this is by you providing proof of an employment contract (contrato laboral) and recent payslips (la nómina) that demonstrate you are paid the same amount every month, and that it’s enough to cover the rent and other expenses.

Here’s where things can start to get tricky for self-employed people (known as autónomos in Spain), who number more than 3 million in Spain.

Regardless of whether your monthly autónomo earnings are high pretty much every month, regardless of how consistent they may be, or even if you have regular clients, the irregular and insecure nature of Spain’s work market have ensured that landlords and realtors take a rigid attitude towards the rules.

This is especially true following the turbulent economic times of recent years as we’ve moved from global pandemic to war in Europe to spiralling inflationary pressures on the global economy.

Landlords want to be sure you can pay the rent. Therefore, they may favour a waiter with a nómina of €1,000 a month over an autónomo who can prove monthly earnings double that for the previous six months. Doesn’t seem fair, right? 

READ MORE: Why you should be raising your rates if you’re self-employed in Spain

Well, that’s often how it can be in Spain. Fortunately, if you find yourself in this situation, there are various ways you can convince potential landlords that you are financially solvent enough to rent their property, with or without a fixed contract

The law

Now, it is not unheard of – in Spain nor anywhere else in the world – for an estate agent or landlord to try and squeeze more money out of you, or to add on some extra charges. In most people’s experience, Spanish estate agents and landlords are no better or worse than anyone else, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

It has been known, however, for some in Spain to try and get an extra month’s deposit by telling potential tenants that they need a nómina by law in order to rent a property in Spain, and that they’re doing you a favour by allowing it.

Simply put, this is not true. According to Spanish law, more specifically, La Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (Urban Renting Law), although many landlords require some form of financial insurance, there is absolutely nothing to say a nómina is necessary to rent a property in Spain. A deposit is legally required, but a nómina?

Helpful? Certainly. Legally necessary? Definitely not.

That said, if you explain to the property owner that you’re self-employed, some landlords maybe be willing to make other arrangements to ensure the rent.

Here are some options, and other bits of paperwork that could help:

Aval bancario: Like a bank guarantee, some landlords request tenants without nóminas or work contracts to set up an aval bancario.

You must pay in an agreed amount (often worth the value of two or three months of rent, sometimes more) into a bank account that you’re a customer with.

It’s money that you cannot touch for an agreed period of time and which you pay some interest on, and in the event that you do not pay your rent, the landlord will be able to access said funds.

This is not the cheapest way to rent a property, but it may be one of the more effective ways of convincing a landlord to accept you as a tenant.

If you pay your rent diligently every month and prove that you are reliable, after a year you should speak to your landlord to ask them them to cancel the aval in order to not continue paying interest on it and recover your stored money.

Anuncios de particulares: If you’re using the usual rental search engines like Idealista or Fotocasa, the vast majority of rental adverts are from estate agents (inmobiliarias) who ask for all the proper documentation, including contracts and pay slips, and often the extra month’s rent as a fee.

When you’re making your search, keen an eye out for anuncios particulares , which are private ads direct from landlords.

Sometimes if you deal directly with the owner themselves, they are less strict about rules with regards to nóminas and contracts. Maybe you’ll get really lucky and find a landlord that takes a liking to you and who only asks for one month’s deposit.

Seguro de impago de alquiler: A landlord may be more likely to rent to you even if you don’t have a nómina when they have seguro de impago de alquiler, non-payment rental insurance. It protects the landlord for the duration of the contract and covers the rent and any repairs or legal fees.

IRPF: IRPF is Spain’s personal income tax, and providing your most recent income tax return could help put your potential landlord at ease by proving that what you’ve earned over the last year could cover the cost of the rent.

Seguridad Social: Similarly, providing proof of your social security payment can help prove your financial solvency.

Bank statement: a simple bank statement to show account activity – and that you have enough to pay the rent and deposit, of course – might ease the mind of your landlord as it allows them to see your incomings and any debts you might have.

IVA: Showing your VAT (IVA in Spain) returns could be another tool that, when used in conjunction with other ways of proving your solvency, could convince a landlord to rent to an autónomo.

Pensioner documentation: If you’re retired and you’re looking to rent, any official documents which show how much pension money you receive every month, along with bank statement reflecting savings, should suffice to convince a landlord or estate agent that you’re solvent.

READ ALSO: Renting in Spain: Can my landlord put up my rent due to rising inflation?

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