Spain has a housing problem, but a huge number of vacant homes

by Lorraine Williamson
vacant properties

Earlier this week, INE Spain made a special conclusion: The housing problem that has plagued Spain for years, as a result of which rental and purchase prices have risen considerably, is in stark contrast to the huge number of vacant homes that Spain appears to have. 

This conclusion and data were published on Friday by the National Institute of Statistics (INE). The report ‘Population Register and Housing 2021’ states that on January 1, 2021, more than 3.8 billion houses in Spain were empty. This amounts to 14.4% of the total number of homes registered in Spain that year. 

When is a house ’empty’ in Spain? 

Important here is that the INE classifies a home as ’empty’ when there is no active electricity supply contract for that home or if a home has a lower energy consumption in a year than what a similar home in the same municipality would consume if it were used for 15 days. 

Small villages Spain register the most vacant homes 

According to the census, most homes were empty in Spain’s smaller municipalities. Towns and cities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants had an average of 45% empty homes. The villages that had the highest percentage of empty homes were as follows;

Cogesa Expats
  • Tías, Lanzarote (48%)
  • Mos, Galicia (46.5%)
  • Monforte de Lemos, Galicia (40.0%)

In contrast, cities with more than 250,000 inhabitants had only 10.5% empty homes. In Spain’s larger cities, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (17.3%), Vigo, Galicia (15.1%) and A Coruña, Galicia (14.7%) recorded the highest percentages of empty homes. In general, the picture from the report shows homes that are used sporadically are located along the coast or serve as holiday destinations in the interior of Spain. 

The number of people per household in Spain has been falling for years 

The report also mentions the Hispanic population. The population register of early 2021 shows that Spain had 47,400,798 inhabitants. All these people formed 18,539,223 households, which is 455,531 more than in 2011 (+2.5%). Meanwhile, the number of people per household in Spain has fallen; from an average of 2.58 persons per household in 2011 to 2.54 persons per household in 2021. This continues the decline of the past fifty years. 

The majority of households in Spain consist of two people (28.1%). The number of single-person households in Spain was over 5 billion, an increase of 19.3% compared to 10 years ago. 

This is how owner-occupied and rental properties compare in Spain 

Three out of four households were owner-occupied homes in 2021, a decrease of about 3% compared to 10 years ago. Whereas, the percentage of rented homes rose to 16.1%, continuing the upward trend of the past twenty years. Barcelona (31.1%) and Girona (30.9%) are the municipalities in Spain with the highest percentages of rental properties. Huelva (8.6%) and Jaén (9.8%), on the other hand, have the lowest percentages of rental properties in Spain. 

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