Land Use In Espai Vila-Real May Be Modified

20 October 2017 – El Periódico Mediterráneo

“Clearly, times have changed”. With that phrase, José Benlloch, the mayor of Vila-real, acknowledged that the plots of land in Espai Vila-real may be reclassified (in terms of their use), now that the Government has decided that the intermodal station will not be constructed in Castellón.

One door closes, but others open, and the Town Hall wants to be prepared not to waste its opportunities. It is for that reason that Benlloch is planning to meet the owners of the land, spanning 1 million m2, which comprises this Comprehensive Action Plan (PAI), to find out “what options are being considered in terms of its ownership and to inform them about the current possibilities”.

The mayor seems willing to modify the uses of the land if necessary and to “change the terms of the program, provided there are expectations on the part of the owners”. The one option the municipal corporation has ruled out is the large shopping centre that the Popular Government’s team, led by Juan José Rubert, planned in 2007. That plan included, amongst other matters, the arrival of the Swedish multinational Ikea in the town.

Mediterranean Corridor

One of the options that is gaining strength at the moment is the conversion of these plots, located opposite Porcelanosa, into a logistics hub, linked to the construction of the third strand of the Mediterranean Corridor. Such infrastructure is being demanded not only by the Regional Government but also by most of Valencia’s businesses. “We are aware that if this goes ahead, users will need places for storing goods temporarily, and we think that these plots are perfect for that, given that they are located in the heart of a very industrial district, La Plana Baixa”, explained the mayor.

Even though this idea will be on the table at the meeting between the Town Hall and the landowners, Benlloch is convinced that this question may be “compatible” with other proposals linked to the installation of new industries and projects relating to services, as well as the business that may be negotiated over the next few months. That said, the mayor wants to begin the new phase that is been opened by drawing “a roadmap that is shared” with the owners.

Original story: El Periódico Mediterráneo (by Xavi Prera)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Rajoy Will Give Tax Breaks To Banks That Lease Empty Homes

29 November 2016 – Expansión

Housing will be one of the first major agreements of the new legislature. The PP has reached “an agreement with the opposition” to approve a non-binding proposal to establish guidelines for real estate policy until 2021. This initiative, which will be debated by the Development Committee in Congress on Wednesday, includes an important new feature: it will incentivise the occupation of empty homes owned by financial institutions, public companies, Public Administrations and “other owners” by the “most vulnerable” families. For example, those on low incomes and those who have been evicted from their homes.

To achieve this, “tax incentives, agreements with large home owners and exchanges of land” will be approved, according to sources in the Popular Parliamentary Group. “All of the parties support the agreement”, which will give rise to a new Housing Plan, to be agreed, as always, with all of the regional governments.

The tax benefits that will be approved have not been defined yet because the PP still needs to agree them with the opposition. Moreover, the Ministry of Development, which is piloting the reform is in the middle of handing over powers and is not in any rush. “The left-wing parties like the idea. The agreement that we are going to reach on Wednesday is generic and we will have to do further work to iron out the details”, say the same sources.

In the face of initiatives to penalise owners of empty homes, such as those introduced in Cataluña, País Vasco and Andalucía, the new housing agreement will seek to “promote mechanisms of cooperation so that available unoccupied homes, owned by the Public Administrations, public companies, financial institutions and other owners may be occupied by the most vulnerable members of the population” according to the text in the Proposal, which has received a favourable report from the Ministry of Development.

The banks will be the main target for these measures. The appraisal company Tinsa calculates that the financial institutions own more than 80% of the stock of empty homes. In its most recent report, based on data as at 2015, Tinsa calculates that the banks own a surplus of more than 300,000 (empty) homes. In addition, the ratings agency Fitch says that at the end of last year, the financial sector owned “around 150,000 unsellable (new) homes”.

With this reform, it will be much easier for banks to free up their empty homes. Firstly, because they will receive guaranteed income from the State in the event that they allocate them as social rental properties. Secondly, because although the lease payments will be relatively low, the tax benefit will have a compensatory effect. Thirdly, because when the entities exchange properties for land, they will remove those assets that are hard to divest from their balance sheets and they will only include new properties in better locations and with better outlooks.

INE estimates that there are 3.5 million empty homes in Spain, but that almost all of them are owned by individuals. Tinsa says that, of all of the residential properties constructed since 2008 (that have never been lived in), only around 11,670 are owned by professionals, but they are not being marketed. That figure represents 3.9% of the total commercial stock (389,000 homes in 2015). (…).

Original story: Expansión (by Juanma Lamet)

Translation: Carmel Drake