The shape of leftwing housing policies you can expect from the next Spanish Government

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (front centre) with his cabinet.

Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (front centre) with his cabinet.

Although left wing parties failed to reach a power-sharing agreement after the last General Election in April, triggering fresh elections in November, it’s likely the next poll will deliver a similar result from which there will be no escaping a left wing deal this time round.

However much they dislike each other, the Socialists and the hard-left Podemos party will have to reach an agreement to avoid an endless repetition of elections. The days of the two party system and alternating Governments between the Socialists and the Popular Party are over.

Here is a flavour of what to expect in terms of housing policy from the next Government, based on the Socialists’ proposals to the hard-left Podemos party when trying to reach an agreement last time around.

  • Measures to increase the supply of affordable-housing including home building by councils and other state-backed entities and cooperatives on private and public land.
  • Redefine the constitutionally-guaranteed right to dignified housing, to make it more effective.
  • Measures to fortify the social function of housing and help the authorities to identify empty housing and pressurise owners, especially large-scale owners, to offer affordable rents.
  • Changes to the Horizontal Property Law to improve decision making relating to the uses of property other than housing, and increase works to improve the energy efficiency of property.
  • Regulation of holiday rentals by increasing the coordination of control between different levels of government.
  • Protecting social housing from private ownership.
  • New state housing plan including a line of financing for autonomous regions to practise compulsory purchase
  • More resources to fight homelessness
  • National plan for property renovation offering financing for affordable rental housing renovations, energy efficiency, disabled access and living standards. Tax breaks to encourage refurb and urban renovation.
  • Rent controls including a price index to put a break on rising rents.
  • Emergency housing for borrowers who have been evicted from their homes after defaulting on their mortgages.
  • Measures to help young adults to fly the nest.
  • Reinforce the Housing Observatory to investigate and analyse the housing situation in Spain

Many of these measures are pure electoral posturing with no specific programmes or resources to make them happen, for example the commitment to guarantee dignified housing for all, as enshrined in the Spanish constitution. It won’t change anything.

One of the proposals most of interest to foreign buyers will be plans to strengthen the regulation of holiday rentals by improving the coordination between different levels of Government. But at this stage the Socialists simply plan to “study measures” rather than implement a policy.

Spain’s housing stock is relatively old and badly maintained. It could do with renovation to make it more livable and environmentally friendly. Renovation projects have picked up since the property market started to recover back in 2014, mainly in cities like Barcelona and Madrid. However, I’m told that, on the coast, people still prefer to pay a premium for new homes rather than buy and do-up an existing property, which would be cheaper. But until the Government significantly reduces the costs and bureaucratic hurdles of renovation it will never take off. Every successive administration makes a song and dance about encouraging renovation of the housing stock, but then do little to make it easier, quicker and cheaper to do. The Socialists are no different.

Podemos party Spanish housing policy goals

Podemos pablo iglesias

Pablo Iglesias (centre) speaking at a meeting in Zamora. “We are going to negotiate that in this country the [constitutional] article that protects the right to housing is applied, and if to do that one has to intervene in rental market to reduce prices, then that’s what’ll have to be done” Photo: Dani Gago.

The hard-left Podemos party led by Pablo Iglesias are more punchy about their lefty housing policy goals. They set a goal of renovating 500,000 homes a year, without any indication how that will be achieved. They also propose rent controls, increasing the social housing stock, fighting against “vulture funds and speculators”, reigning in the “excessive proliferation of holiday rentals”, preventing evictions, offering debt forgiveness for struggling borrowers in negative equity, guaranteed utility supplies, abolishing Real Estate Investment Trusts (known as SOCIMIS in Spain), prohibiting the use of company structures for home ownership, and allowing borrowers to clamp back mortgage Stamp Duty.

It will be interesting to see what kind of policies they introduce if and when they finally reach a power-sharing agreement later on this year, assuming they do. Access to housing is a big deal for Podemos, so the housing policies of the next Government will be fought over and quite possibly very contentious.

About Mark Stücklin

Mark Stücklin is a Barcelona-based Spanish property market analyst, and author of the 'Spanish Property Doctor' column in the Sunday Times (2005 - 2008).

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