BENIDORM, Spain—Torre Lugano, Spain’s tallest residential tower, attracted buyers from here and abroad with glossy brochures promising a luxury building with a glass-walled elevator and sweeping views of this Mediterranean resort’s turquoise waters.
The reality is very different. The garage floods, windows are drafty and backed-up toilets flood apartments with sewage. The glass elevator never materialized. Residents, some recently forced to shower in a communal rest room because the plumbing on their floors failed, are suing the developers for €28.2 million ($36.4 million), citing “construction defects.”
Torre Lugano is a 420-foot-tall example of the gap between Spain’s recent dreams of economic glory and its grim new reality. Some 1.5 million unfinished, unsold or unwanted residential units stand scattered across the country, products of a still-deflating housing bubble that threatens to undermine Spain’s broader economy for years to come. It is the hangover after an epic fiesta, a period Spaniards now refer to as “cuando pensábamos que éramos ricos”—”when we thought we were rich.”
Once hailed as early proof of the success of the euro, Europe’s single currency, Spain’s low interest rates from the mid-1990s and its proximity to richer neighbors ushered in a decade-long period of prosperity.