Where can all the vacant houses in Spain be found?

by Lorraine Williamson
vacant houses

MADRID – How many houses are empty in Spain and what can be done with these vacant houses? This subject regularly appears on the political agenda. Spain has no less than 4 million empty houses. 

The 2021 census shows that there are increasing numbers of uninhabited properties in rural and tourist areas of Spain. The National Institute of Statistics (INE) recently published a report on this. 

The number of vacant homes in Spain comprises 14% of the total housing stock. INE bases this data on the energy consumption of the houses during the year 2020. The institute does, however, add that this year was influenced by the pandemic and the various lockdowns. According to this measurement, a house is considered uninhabited if its energy consumption during the year is less than the equivalent of 15 days of an average house in the same municipality. 

More than 3.8 million vacant homes are spread across the country. The INE has published a map – also available here in Eldiario.es – showing the situation per municipality. 

Madrid and Barcelona 

Based on the above measurement method, there appear to be more than 97,100 vacant homes in Madrid. This corresponds to 6.3% of the total housing stock. In Barcelona, at the beginning of 2021, there were 75,476 uninhabited homes, almost 10% of the total. In addition, there are another 16,000 homes with consumption lower than that of a refrigerator. 

Cogesa Expats

Also read: Spain has a housing problem but a huge number of vacant homes 

Valencia, Palma and Malaga 

In other cities with high property pressure and tense rental markets, such as Valencia, Palma and Malaga, there were 36,000, 16,000 and more than 9,300 vacant homes respectively. This corresponds to 8.8%, 6.4% and 5% of the total. In Seville, there were almost 25,000 vacant homes, representing 7.5% of the total number of homes in the Andalucian capital. 

More than 30% of vacant houses

The analysis of the housing census shows that there is only one city with more than 30,000 inhabitants and more than 30% of the homes vacant. That is the town of Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife, with more than 6,000 vacant homes. However, there are nine other cities where more than 25% of the homes are uninhabited. 

Remarkably, the problem of vacant housing mainly affects rural areas and areas that rely heavily on seasonal tourism. These areas concentrate a larger percentage of homes with no owner or tenant. For example, in municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, where 20.3% of the population lives, no less than 45% of the homes are empty. In cities with more than 250,000 inhabitants, where 23.8% of the population lives, the percentage of vacant housing is only 10.5% of the total. 

Housing law 

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

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