Empty houses in Spain: their location and what surcharge they could face

The Government included a new rate for the IBI tax in the new Housing Law for property that is empty for more than two years. The surcharge may be up to 150%
The Government has included a new rate for the Real Estate Tax (IBI) in the new Housing Law for those homes that are empty for a long time (over two years). The surcharge could be as high as 150%.

Once the new regulations have been approved, it will be up to the local councils to decide whether or not to adopt the measure.
empty bird`s house
The most recent proposal regarding empty housing was made by the Minister for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda José Luis Ábalos, which consisted of "a clear definition of what an empty home is so that local councils can apply the surcharge on the IBI quota to those residential properties that remain empty, establishing a temporary reference period of two years, and setting a minimum number of four properties per owner". And it is this definition that has been included in the new law.

Some of the cases that were considered as justified were temporary relocation (work or academic purpose), moving to another home for health, dependency or social emergency reasons, second homes with up to 4 years of unoccupancy, renovations, works or situations that prevent habitability, homes with pending administrative or judicial cases, or individuals/ legal entities whose properties are for sale (1 year) or rent (6 months), under market conditions.

Empty real estate in Spain

According to the National Statistics Institute (INE) the number of unoccupied properties in Spain was 3.4 million in its last official data from 2011. At present, the approximate number is unknown.

Of the 3.4 residential dwellings, 21.4% had been built in the last decade at that time (i.e. between 2001 and 2011). A further 29.7% were houses more than 50 years old, which in figures amounts to more than one million.

Location of empty houses

The highest percentage of homes registered as unoccupied was in Galicia (18.6%), La Rioja (18%) and Murcia (16.6%). In terms of provinces, Ourense (22.7%), Lugo (20.2%) and Castellón (19.5%) had the largest number of empty houses in 2011.

Madrid (-14.2%), Barcelona (-12.4%) and the three provinces of the Basque Country showed percentages of empty homes below 11% between 2001 and 2011, while nearby towns showed decreases due to the economic activity of the large capitals.

No more updated data on housing?

We will have to wait until 2023 for the INE's 2021 Population and Housing Census, but the annual figure for unsold new housing stock is available. In 2020 up to 456,918 properties did not find an owner. Half of the available new housing stock is distributed between the Valencian Community, Catalonia and Andalusia. Even so, the largest increase in stock was recorded by Madrid with 4.1% (45,071) and the largest decreases – in the Basque Country (-13%, 2,766) and the Balearic Islands (-8.7%, 7,394).

The housing stock in Spain may be another data point to take into account when looking at empty properties. In 2020, there were 25.8 million dwellings, 19.4 million of which are considered first homes. The rest are second homes, totalling 6.5 million. The regions with the largest residential stock are Andalusia (4.4 million dwellings), Catalonia (3.9 million), Valencia (3.2 million), and Madrid (3 million).
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