Affordable housing is scarce, while at the same time many apartments remain empty. This is a problem that many cities are struggling with. The government of the Balearic islands in Spain has now found a solution. A total of 56 apartments, most of them on Mallorca, will be turned into social housing for seven years. Residents are expected to pay only 30 percent of their income as rent, and the owners will be compensated for this.

Balearic Islands: Apartments for those in need

“The properties will be transferred to the people who need it most, taking into account that we cannot collect more than 30% of the owners’ income. 

,said Minister of Mobility and Housing of the Balearic Islands, Josep Marí. The Balearic Government assumes with public resources the difference that the landlord will pay for the compensation that is paid to the holder. ”It takes apartments off the “speculative free market” and places them in the hands of those who need them most. The owners of the properties are banks and investment funds that own at least ten properties. These have not been used for at least two years. The owners will receive a total of 1.8 million euros as compensation. 

Ending the housing crisis

Other Spanish cities have similar plans. The city of Palma now also wants to expropriate apartment owners to turn them into social housing. This is the result of a request from the city hall to the government of the Balearic islands. It is particularly focussed on buildings owned by banks and investment funds that speculated with them.

Last year, the Catalan government issued an ultimatum concerning vacant apartments. If the owners do not rent their apartments out on a contract lasting for at least a year within a month, they would become the property of the city at half the market price. In addition, the companies can expect penalties of between 90,000€ and 900,000€.

In Spain, there are over 3.4 million vacant housing units. Image source: unsplash/Francisco Moreno

Europe: Over 11 million empty houses

Vacant apartments and houses are a worldwide issue. In Europe, 11 million housing units are empty, with Spain being the leading country with 3.4 million vacant housing units. At the same time, over 4 million people have no roof over their heads in Europe. This means there are almost three times as many vacant apartments as there are homeless people. 

A lot of the empty apartments and houses are located in tourist areas like the Balearic islands and were built during the real estate boom until the housing crisis in 2008. A lot of the properties have never been lived in. According to “The Guardian”, many apartments were bought as an investment and without the intention of ever living in them. 

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