Census shines light on Spain’s empty housing problem

The results of the latest decennial census (2002-2011) from the National Institute of Statistics confirm that Spain has a problem with empty housing, especially too many unsold new homes.

The housing figures from Spain’s latest decennial census are out. Spain now has 25.2 million dwellings, after a building boom that added 1.5 new buildings and 4.2 million homes (+20pc) between 2002 and 2011 (15pc of them in 2005-2006).

In the same period the number of households increased by 3.9 million (+28pc) to 18 million, with the biggest increases in the Canaries, the Balearics, and Murcia.

72pc of Spain’s housing stock is now occupied as primary housing (18 million homes), 15pc (3.7 million) are second homes, and 14pc (3.4 million) stand empty, reveals an analysis of the figures.

3.4 million empty homes is a problem for Spain, given the current depressed state of the housing market and the economy.

If you look just at the 4.2 million new homes added to the housing stock over the decade, 19pc of them are empty, 14pc of them are second homes, and 68pc of them are occupied as main homes. So a third of all the new homes that were built over the decade are either empty or occupied just part of the time.

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings
Homes built 2002-2011 by use. Yellow = main homes, red = second homes, orange = empty

Some regions like Andalucia, the Valencian Community and Murcia added more homes than households, leading to an increase in the number of homes per capita. The reverse was true in regions like Catalonia, Madrid, the Canaries and the Balearics.

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings
Households in dark red, dwellings in orange

The housing stock increased the most in Murcia (+31pc), thanks to the resort building boom that also needed housing for construction workers.

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings

The region with the largest proportion of second homes relative to its housing stock was Castile and Leon (25pc), followed by Cantabria in the north (21pc) and the Valencian Community (21pc), home to the Costa Blanca.

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings

The region with the greatest empty housing problem was Galicia (19pc), followed by La Rioja (18pc) and Murcia (17pc).

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings

The following map shows the empty housing problem distributed around Spain (the darker the colour, the higher the percentage of empty homes)

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings

The empty housing problem increased the most in Murcia (61pc more empty homes) and improved the most in the Balearics (-30pc) over the decade.

Spanish census 2011 households and dwellings

Torre-Pacheco, empty home hot-spot

An analysis of the census figures by the Spanish daily El Mundo reveals that the Polaris World base of Torre-Pacheco, in Murcia, is Spain’s municipal capital of empty homes.

The percentage of empty homes in the municipality of Torre-Pacheco is 36pc, well above the national average of 14pc. That means that more than 1 in 3 homes in Torre-Pacheco, or 7,300 out of 20,400, are empty.

The Mayor of Torre-Pacheco, Daniel Garcia, denies this arguing that, based on an analysis of water bills, the real rate is just 17pc. But local agents interviewed by the Spanish daily El Mundo say the official figures are closer to the truth, thanks to thousands of empty homes on Polaris World resorts like Terrazas de la Torre. (Incidentally, El Mundo also report that at Terrazas de la Torre, the price of a 75m2 flat has fallen from 120,000€ to 40,000€, and from 150,000€ to 60,000€ on other resorts.)

SPI Member Comments

Thoughts on “Census shines light on Spain’s empty housing problem

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe that there actually was a recent census. Spain has always counted the population in years beginning with 1, however in 2011 they simply added up all the padron numbers. I doubt the accuracy of these as many people will have moved without informing the ayuntamiento. I am also acquainted with a dodgy geezer who is empadronado in Malaga and the Canaries (so he can get discounted plane tickets when he goes there to visit his mum). He actually lives in Australia. Who would like to guess whether the population of Spain is really higher or lower than we have been told?

  • Mark Stucklin says:

    SP, you’re not wrong. I think it was based mainly on the padron. But I get the impression they also did a study of the housing stock which involved actually counting something, though I’m not sure what the methodology was.

  • andrew hawkes says:

    The population is based on the patron municipal which is updated every year, down to municipal, district and neighbourhood (census section ) level. Whilst the fact of people not being “empadronado” in the town, or being empadronado but not living in the town exists, in our in-depth analysis of the Spanish residential market we’ve found it an excellent indicator of the make-up of towns and neighbourhoods in terms of changes in population and the proportion of the population living in a specific neighbourhood across the whole of Spain.

    The data about number of housing stock that we’ve been using up until the release of 2011 census data, is the 2001 census figures, which give main, second and vacant homes for every neighbourhood in Spain. From that Fomento produce a series on housing completions by towns above 10,00 population across the whole of Spain which allow a series of housing stock until end 2011.

    The method of the census is a combination of public statistics collected across the administration and internet collected surveys. I think for the 2011 census there has been no door-to-door surveys conducted.

    Building that is taking place now is to a large extent self-construction (auto promoción). The problem is construction of houses with weak economic activity with a degree of shortfall of housing in very limited locations where there is economic activity.

    Has the information from this article come from the release of the 2011 census on housing (population information released at the end of 2012). I haven’t checked yet.

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