New Urban Planning PGOU Approved for Málaga

25 November 2017 – Diario Sur

Following the annulment of the PGOU approved in 2010, the route map towards the normalisation of urban planning in Marbella has taken a step forward with the initial approval of some new urban planning rules. The latest document seeks to “update” the plan approved in 1986, which is still valid now and which will serve as the basis for drafting the new PGOU that the city needs. The process, which was approved by the plenary with votes in favour from the government’s team (PP and OSP) and the PSOE, and votes against from IU and Costa del Sol Sí Puede, must now be completed with text from the provincial delegation of the Junta’s Environment Board, prior to the issuance of a mandatory report. Subsequently, it will be presented to the plenary again for definitive approval (…).

In practice, and as the councillor for Land Planning, María Francisca Caracuel, explained, modifications have been made to the framework, amongst others, “which affect many homes” and which mean that “extensions, improvements and renovations will now be allowed” on buildings that were left out of the guidelines after the 2010 plan was annulled.

Another change will affect plots of land, for which it is not currently possible to grant construction licences because no approved urban planning projects exist, in accordance with the plan approved in 1986 “even though, in reality, they are already partially developed”. In these cases, the common rules open the door for the plots to be developed, by submitting an urbanisation work project “which is less complex and which can be processed in less time”.

The new rules will authorise hospitality use on the first floors of homes in the Casco Antiguo (Old Town) and will allow hotel establishments to expand their facilities onto adjoining plots even if the use of those sites is not strictly for hotel purposes (…).

Established urban plots

In the field of urban planning, the plenary also ratified (with votes in favour from the government team, against from IU and CSSP, and abstentions from the PSOE) the proposal made by the Councillor for Land Planning to incorporate established urban plots into the urban development plans, after they have been declared as such by binding legal rulings, administrative declarations, own acts, plenary agreements or by the Local Government. The councillor insisted that, given that it does not require any structural changes, there is no need for the document to be subjected to a new public consultation period, as had been requested by the other municipal groups.

In other matters, the municipal corporation also gave the green light, unanimously, to the proposal from the deputy mayor of San Pedro Alcántara, Rafael Piña (…) to begin the paperwork for the construction of a new secondary school in the south of San Pedro (…).

Finally, the plenary also approved, amongst other items, a proposal from IU to create a network of roads to connect the urbanisations between Bello Horizonte and Elviria, to form a 10km network that will offer a safe alternative to the A-7 motorway, which is “always packed and dangerous”.

Original story: Diario Sur (by Mónica Pérez)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Social Housing Tenants Can No Longer Buy Their Homes In Madrid

22 June 2017 – El Confidencial

The Community of Madrid will abolish the framework that allows tenants of social housing properties to be granted an option to buy their homes. In other words, those who wish to access a subsidised home may now only do so on a rental basis or as owners, but they may not rent and then subsequently purchase the home that they have lived in as tenants, in a change to the legislation applicable until now. That is according to the draft bill that will be presented today in the plenary session of the Assembly of Madrid and which will grant tenants greater guarantees in the event that their homes are transferred or sold to a third party.

According to José María García Gómez, Director General of Housing and Renovations at the Community of Madrid, this decision is motivated by “the change in the cycle that the housing market in Spain has experienced, which means that in some areas of Madrid, the price of private housing is less than the price of social housing. Nowadays, this option is not as attractive, it is a system that has been made obsolete and which goes against the real estate cycle, hence the decision to eliminate it”, he added.

In fact, according to data from the Community of Madrid, “only 10%-15% of those who choose to rent with the option to buy end up exercising that right. In some cases, this happens because the tenants are unable to obtain financing, but in other cases, it is because they prefer to continue to rent”, he said. “The majority are renewing their rental contracts, whilst others have left their homes”.

According to sources at the Community of Madrid, the new measure will enter into force once it has been published in the Community of Madrid’s Official Gazette – the plenary session will be held today, where the measure is expected to be approved – but the same sources clarify that it will not affect those developments or plots of land that have already been granted that classification.

No more sales of subsidised homes to vulture funds

The new rules will also include two changes that are intended to protect tenants. To understand them, it is necessary to explain that although some subsidised homes are owned by the town halls and regional governments, others are owned privately (…).

When homes are owned by the Community of Madrid, they may not be sold to third parties other than the tenants or their successors. However, according to José María García Gómez, “the intention of the government led by Cristina Cifuentes (pictured above) is that not a single social housing property be sold. Nevertheless, in the event that a decision is taken to sell, then the tenants would have the right of first refusal. In other words, they would have preference over any other buyer”, he explained. “The idea is to avoid selling off public assets”.

By contrast, in the case of homes that have been constructed by private developers, the new law establishes a preferential acquisition right for legal entities with “a recognised commitment to the management of subsidised housing for social purposes, with the obligation for the new owner to abide by the conditions, terms and maximum rents established, subrogating the rights and obligations (…)”.

These measures will prevent these subsidised homes from ending up in the hands of the so-called “vulture funds”, for example, like has happened in the past (…).

Original story: El Confidencial (by E. Sanz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Merlin & Santander Plan To List Testa Residencial In 2017

12 September 2016 – Expansión

Mega-operation / On Thursday, the General Shareholders’ Meetings of Metrovacesa and Merlin will approve the merger from which the largest real estate company and rental home Socimi will emerge, which will debut on the stock market next year.

Merlin Properties and Santander plan to list Testa Residential on the stock market next year. The rental home Socimi will result from the merger between the real estate company and Metrovacesa, according to comments made by official company sources to Europa Press. The new Socimi will result from a mega merger operation between Merlin and Metrovacesa, the real estate company in which Santander, BBVA and Popular all own stakes.

The largest real estate company in Spain will emerge from this integration. The firm will also be one of the largest RE companies in Europe, with a portfolio of office buildings, shopping centres and logistics assets worth around €9,300 million. The new Merlin will have Santander as its majority shareholder, with a 21.9% stake, and will list on the Ibex.

New company

The operation will also give rise to a second company, Testa Residential, as a result of a decision by Merlin and Metrovacesa’s creditor banks to separate their respective batches of rental homes into an independent company.

Merlin and Metrovacesa are already finalising the integration process, which will give rise to the two companies and which will be completed at the end of October. On Thursday 15 September, the companies will hold their respective extraordinary general shareholders’ meetings, where the merger operation will be approved.

Subsequently, both companies will participate in an asset-share exchange, through which the integration will materialise. By virtue of the operation, Santander and the other banks that currently control Metrovacesa will transfer the real estate company’s office buildings and shopping centres, worth €1,672 million, to Merlin, in exchange for shares in the Socimi. In parallel, the two companies will transfer their rental homes to the new company Testa Residencial, which will have a portfolio of rental homes worth around €980 million.

Testa Residential’s debut on the stock exchange forms part of the growth strategy to be implemented by the new Socimi, which is now the largest rental home company in the country. The real estate company will receive approval for an initial portfolio containing 4,700 rental homes, mostly located in the province of Madrid (63%). The other properties are located in Mallorca, San Sebastián, Pamplona and other cities.

One of the new growth pillars of Testa Residencial will be the provision of new batches of homes by Santander and the other two shareholder banks of Metrovacesa, BBVA and Popular, through non-monetary capital increases.


The entity chaired by Ana Botín will be the majority shareholder of the new firm Testa Residencial, with a 46.21% stake, ahead of Merlin, which will own 34.2% of the share capital, BBVA (13%) and Banco Popular (6%). Merlin Properties plans to hold onto its stake in the rental home company over the long term, despite the dilution of its initial percentage stake, as the banks contribute new assets.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake

Madrid’s Town Hall Votes Against Operación Chamartín

19 May 2016 – Expansión

The Town Hall of Madrid has taken another step in its crusade against Operación Chamartín, promoted by Distrito Castellana Norte (DCN) – jointly owned by BBVA and San José – and has thereby buried the private initiative for the extension of La Castellana, backed by the previous PP regional government.

The latest chapter in the battle to control the development of the area in the north of the capital was written yesterday with the Committee for Sustainable Urban Development’s rejection of Operación Chamartín. Specifically, the Committee ruled out the project with votes from Ahora Madrid and the PSOE, its partner at the Town Hall.

By contrast, councillors from the PP and Ciudadanos parties, who are in favour of the project, voted against the proposal to deny the definitive approval of the Partial Interior Reform Plan promoted by DCN, included on the Committee’s agenda for the day.

The plans for Operación Chamartín were submitted at the beginning of 2015 by the previous Town Hall, the Community of Madrid and the Ministry of Development together with the development company, but it was not debated in the municipal Plenary because of the upcoming elections.

During the Committee’s debate, the PP councillor José Luis Martínez Almeida warned about the “criminal liabilities” that the Government team may incur for not basing its decisions on reports and for seeking to substitute a global agreement for the development of the north of Madrid with a 16-page plan.

Meanwhile, the Ciudadanos councillor Bosco Labrado asked the Government’s team to look for a real solution for DCN’s project.

By contrast, the PSOE councillor Mercedes González congratulated the Government’s team on the new proposal for the north of Madrid and asked that the minutes reflect that his political party vindicates Eduardo Manglada and all of the other people who have contributed to changing the city. He mentioned Eduardo Leira – the husband of the mayoress – and Enrique Bardají, amongst others.

The Committee’s rejection of DCN’s project, which still needs to go through the Plenary, comes a week after Manuela Carmena’s town planning team presented its own alternative for the development of the north of the capital, known as Madrid Puerta Norte, at a public meeting. .

The alternative project

These plans, amongst other things, drastically reduce the number of homes to be constructed, down from around 17,800 to 4,600, and cut the buildable surface area from 3,270,053 sqm, planned by DCN, to 1,750,197 sqm.

The Town Hall’s proposal, which was presented by the mayoress herself and by a representative from the Sustainable Urban Planning Department, José Manuel Calvo, has not been agreed with the Ministry of Development or the Community of Madrid, which together with the Town Hall own 82% of the affected land, or with BBVA and San José, the promoters of the plan and owners of the management rights over the land.

In order to understand the Town Hall’s plans at first hand, the Ministry of Development has called a meeting for this Friday to which it has invited the mayoress of the capital, the President of the Community of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, contacts from the property developer DCN, and representatives from BBVA and the construction firm San José.

Sources at DCN declined to comment on the plans presented by the Town Hall as they are waiting to be provided with further information.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

NH Appoints 2 New Directors Despite Protests From HNA

22 June 2015 – Cinco Días

On Friday, the fund Oceanwood, which controls 7.58% of NH’s share capital, managed to take a seat on the hotel chain’s Board of Directors, despite HNA’s efforts to the contrary. HNA had tried to avoid the appointment of any new directors, by requesting the inclusion of an additional item on the agenda of the shareholders’ meeting, to limit the number of Board members to 11, even through the company’s bylaws provide for a maximum of 20.

The Chinese group HNA, which holds a 29.5% stake in the hotel chain, justified its proposal as being “in the interests of greater legal certainty”, even though the investment funds (other NH shareholders) had requested a seat on the board. HNA’s position meant that the funds’ entry depended on one of the existing seats being vacated.

Although the item (the vote regarding a reduction in the size of the Board) is still on the agenda of NH’s shareholders’ meeting, which will be held on 29 June, the management body decided to appoint two new directors on Friday, in support of their goal to strengthen “their commitment to transparency and good governance”. And so, Alfredo Fernández Agras was appointed as a proprietary director, at Oceanwood’s request, and Koro Usarranga Unsain was appointed as an independent director. These appointments must now be ratified by the shareholders.

Thus, NH has 13 members on its Board of Directors once more; the number had decreased to 11, after Intesa San Paolo’s exit from the hotel chain’s share capital. The company said yesterday that “the new governance structure strengthens the composition of the Board of Directors over the long term and achieves representation of all stakeholders in line with best corporate governance practices”. According to the company, the decision was taken by “unanimous vote of all of its Board members”.

The fund Oceanwood acquired capital in the hotel group after Santander placed 8.5% of its capital in the market. Santander had, in turn, received the stake from Grupo Inversor Hesperia as payment for some of its debt. BlackRock and Henderson then also became shareholders. These funds requested that NH’s Board strengthen the role of its independent directors to prevent the Chinese group HNA from strengthening its stake and position on the management body, without launching a takeover – it is not obliged to do so until its shareholding exceeds 30% – . HNA has four seats on NH’s board, compared with Hesperia, which has two.

Original story: Cinco Días (by L.S.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

País Vasco Will Tax Empty Homes And May Expropriate Properties From Banks

5 May 2015 – Expansión

The Socialist Party, EH Bildu and UPyD are going to add their votes together in the Basque Parliament to push through a new housing law in Euskadi, which recognises the subjective right to have access to a home. The law will result in the forced and temporary expropriation of the use of homes owned by banks, as well as the introduction of a fee for homes that have been empty for two years.

This initiative – which stems from when Patxi López was the Basque regional president – has been rejected by the PP and the PNV, which governs the País Vasco. Nevertheless, the support of the three opposition groups guarantees 38 votes against the 37 of the nationalist and popular parties.

Through this law, Euskadi will become the first autonomous community to recognise the subjective right to housing, in addition to (the subjective right to) health and education, according to the socialists.

The text provides for the possibility of expropriating empty homes, and those with tenants that cannot afford to pay the rent, from banks for a maximum period of three years, even though this measure has been suspended by the Constitutional Court in other autonomous communities. Within five years, all public housing will be put up for rent. The fee for empty homes will be €10 per square metre per year, an amount that will increase by 10% per year, up to triple the initial fee.

Original story: Expansión

Translation: Carmel Drake