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New housing starts down by 68pc

Not long ago, before the credit crunch brought people to their senses, everywhere you looked in Spain the horizon was bristling with cranes, especially on the coast. But the way things are going it will soon be rare to see a crane in Spain. The figures for new housing starts say it all. In the first quarter of this year, housing starts (not including social housing) fell by 68.4% to 31,244 compared to the same period last year, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing. Including social housing, construction of new homes fell 57% to 47,067.

The only growth area for residential construction was social housing, which rose 50% to 15,823. The rise in social housing construction has not been enough to compensate for the collapse in the private market, having started from a very low base. Nobody wanted to build social housing during the boom, when much higher profits could be made building private homes. In the last quarter social housing made 34% of all new housing starts, a level unheard of since the last property crash in 1992.

Taking a longer view, housing starts were down 46.5% to 297,300 over 12 months to the end of March. Just looking at private housing, there were 201,506 housing starts, a fall of 58.4% on the previous 12 month period.

Looking at the number of new homes which were finished in the period, construction completions in the first quarter were 13,902 social housing (-9%), and 102,975 private housing (-38%). Over 12 months overall completions fell 15.7% to 568,109. Taking just private housing, completions fell 18% to 500,908.

Housing stock keeps growing

Despite the dramatic collapse in housing starts, and the steady decline in completions (soon to turn to a dramatic decline), the overall stock of housing in Spain is still growing. At the end of last year there were 25,129,207 residential properties in Spain, an increase of 2.6% on the previous year, all according to figures from the Ministry of Housing. 89% of these properties were in the private market, compared to just 11% used as social housing.

66.6% of Spain’s housing stock, or 16,747,294 properties, are classified as primary residencies. The remaining 8,382,000 homes are second homes or empty.

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