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