Housing shortage in Malaga and 150,000 empty homes

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The demand for housing in Malaga is enormous. Yet, according to the latest calculations from the statistics bureau INE, more than 150,000 homes in the province are empty. This places Malaga sixth in Spain. Despite the growing demand for housing, in some villages, up to 40% of the homes are unoccupied.

This number is based on electricity usage. A home is considered empty if there is no electricity contract or if the consumption is lower than that of fifteen days per year. Ahead of Malaga are Barcelona and Alicante, with more than 200,000 unoccupied homes, as well as Madrid, with nearly 188,000, Valencia (172,575), and Coruña (163,164). Across the country, nearly four million houses are empty (3.83 million to be precise).

In Andalucia, Almería is the province with the highest percentage of empty homes. Here, it has nearly 17% of the total (a little over 73,000 out of a total of 433,763). Meanwhile, Seville has the lowest number of unoccupied houses, with 10.65% (97,189 compared to a total of just over 900,000).

Growing demand and vacancy

According to the Banco de España, the Spanish real estate market urgently needs 600,000 new homes to meet demand. This shortage is partly caused by the arrival of non-residents and the construction sector’s inability to keep up with the growth of new households. In Malaga, this problem is exacerbated by over-construction and unused, outdated homes that do not meet current demand.

Regional variations

The vacancy rate varies greatly within the province. In Marbella, 20% of homes are empty, while in the city of Malaga, this is only 6.35%. In smaller municipalities like Benahavís and Algarrobo, the vacancy rates are even higher, at 60% and 54%, respectively. This is partly due to overbuilding in these areas and partly because many of these homes are in a state of disrepair and not suitable for immediate occupancy. Other municipalities with high vacancy rates of around 40% include Casares, Ojén, Cómpeta, Gaucín, Cañete la Real, and Colmenar.

Impact of the pandemic years

According to the newspaper SUR, the vacancy rate in Malaga has decreased since 2021. This is mainly due to the increased demand for housing after the pandemic. Homes that are now offered for sale or rent at reasonable prices are quickly sold or rented. However, Julio Rodríguez, a member of the INE, states in the same newspaper that many empty homes are not ready for immediate occupancy due to their poor condition or unfavourable location.

Seasonal use

A significant portion of the homes in the province of Malaga is used only sporadically. According to the INE, about 9% of homes are only inhabited for a few months a year, especially in tourist areas like Torrox, where 20% of homes are used only part of the year, particularly in the holiday month of August. This contributes to the high vacancy rates despite the demand for permanent housing.

Outdated real estate as a solution?

Patricio Palomar, a consultant at AIRE Partners, suggests that renovating or demolishing outdated buildings in city centres and residential areas could be a solution to the housing shortage. He proposes that old buildings with few homes could be replaced by modern apartment complexes with more housing units. However, this would take time and require significant investment.

Why do so many Spaniards own a second home?

Many Spaniards own second homes in tourist areas due to the cultural value placed on vacation and leisure. People from the hot inland areas seek cooling at the coast in summer. Additionally, during the tourism ‘boom,’ it was quite attractive to invest in real estate in locations that offered both personal enjoyment (vacation) and potential rental income (tourism).

Solution for vacancy?

What exactly should be done with the empty homes remains a recurring question in the political debate. The new housing law has given municipalities the ability to levy additional taxes on homes that have been empty for a long time. However, there are exceptions for certain situations where a home is not considered empty, such as when the property is used for work, health reasons, renovation, or sales purposes.

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