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Access to a Dwelling1

In Spain, after a long period of intense economic development and of an important improvement in living standards, a considerable number of citizens face serious problems on how to access to a dwelling.

The concept of dwelling access in a country like Spain with the highest owners' rate in Europe and with the lowest social housing rate has led to the awareness of the citizens to practice the constitutional right for housing regarding property access putting aside other ways of access like through free or protected renting2, and through recovering the habitability conditions of the constructed houses, or other ways of less developed access to a dwelling in our country such as promoting surface right regime, transfer of use (cession), or promoting coownership regime among others.

The right to a dwelling, acknowledged by the Spanish Constitution, is a social right which arises after other more consolidated civil and political rights in our society. The effective exercise of this right will require a decisive proposal from Public Administrations especially from Autonomous Communities to develop it in lawful ways3. At first, this right could be more ambiguous in its acknowledgment and development than others that have precedeed it.

It is a right that is not only acknowledged in the Carta Magna but is also recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the European Social Law. The effective application of this right not only demands normative developments but also specifications of the minimum requirements as well as economic, legal, and constructive conditions that allow the definition of the concept of an adequate and proper dwelling in its most possible objective way.

The Housing and Rehabilitation State Plan 2009-2012, - hereinafter called PEVR -, recommends that, as its main objective, the economic effort of families in acquiring a dwelling doesnt surpass one third of their income. This objective may be pondered upon if the access is through purchase. In this case it takes around one third of their income or is considered a lower rate if it is through renting, - around a fourth of their income -, as is suggested by some Autonomous Communities. If the citizens with rather more economic problems cannot have access either to a rented dwelling, then the Administration should facilitate the right to a proper lodging to fulfil the constitutional mandate.

Title of the original study: Ayudas para el acceso a la vivienda en Espaa. Free market renting or renting through aid programmes ( protected renting). Normative developments.

The protected lodging is one of the novelties of the PEVR. Through its creation an urban equipment is facilitated to solve lodging for those citizens with major risk of social exclusion. This priority is linked to another aid program which is also a novelty in the Plan that helps eradicate shanty towns or infra-edifications as a means of support for relocation that focuses on the most critical aspect of the need for a house.

The protected houses as well as tutelary houses, welfare centres and lodges reserved for people who lack basic economic resources should be assigned to the Social Services by the housing policy administrators to assure that, in accordance with their competence, a roof and minimum habitability conditions are provided to these citizens.

There are also two more attainable ways of access for citizens with lower revenues, like renting or improving the quality of the existing houses through rehabilitation. These are two more sustainable and low cost means for those citizens with minor level of income who cannot afford a property dwelling since they lead to the occupation and reutilization of the housing heritage already constructed.

In relation with renting, Spain has the lowest percentage of houses destined to this regime of possession compared with its neighbouring countries. In the euro zone, around 36% of the residential park is destined to renting, whereas in Spain this percentage is reduced to 13% that implies more than 85% of property dwellings. In Germany, for instance, 57% of their residential park is destined to renting followed by Netherlands 47%, France 38% and the United Kingdom 32%.

The promotion of renting aid program is a priority of PEVR which has been propelled by RBE (Basic Emancipation Rent) and other initiatives such as the guaranteed intermediation from SPA, (Public Renting Society) and other renting agencies from different Administrations that constitute strategic measures to improve renting market deficit in Spain giving security and guarantees since the current situation of this type of tenancy is an obstacle to geographical and labour mobility. It also produces great inflexibility to adapt the access to a dwelling to the stages of life of the citizens and provokes an important economic burden on useless housing heritage.

Also, as an impulse to rent houses the deductions for purchasing reflected in the IRPF (Personal Income Tax), have been diminished so as to make them equal to renting. Besides, there has been an increase in the deduction of renting taxes for landlords who can deduce up to 100% if the tenant is younger than 30 years old.

With regard to the existing houses the activity of the rehabilitation works in the European Union on one hand is about 36% of the sector. This percentage has been intensified in the last years. On the other hand, this percentage in Spain is around 25%. In Germany, for instance, the works in existing buildings reach up to 62%. The aim of the sustainable economic strategy is led to put more weight in the rehabilitation in Spain until it reaches 35% of the investment of the residential estate sector in 2020. With the same objective, the budgetary effort in aid programmes is equated between new houses and the rehabilitated ones - A novelty called housing and rehabilitation Plan. The rehabilitation aid programmes imply almost 50% of the expected aid programmes in all the Plan, not only because of its potential to facilitate access to existing houses but also because they provide a sustainable and revitalizing effect on economy and employment. One special sustainable policy is to promote the rehabilitation of houses subject to be put into rent. "Rehabilitate to rent" makes the access to a dwelling easier favouring a dense and sustainable city which supports small and medium companies of rehabilitation, and for this reason it is the most reinforced aid program within "Renove Plan for houses and buildings " included in the PEVR.

The proposed means for a sustainable economy within the sphere of housing offer new initiatives in housing issues on a strong compromise in renovating and rehabilitating houses in the cores of the cities. There are novelties to ponder upon about the reform of Mortgage Law so as to be able to offer credits to be used in financing rehabilitation works or in improving the fiscal incentives on rehabilitation widening the cases of reduced VAT with new deductions on income tax for some rehabilitation works in houses that aim to improve the energy efficiency, water savings or accessibility for disabled persons.

The protected houses have had an added value historically with respect to the qualification of construction at the time of supervising and authorising the development of the project of construction. These types of houses have been the core of debates of architecture on how to rationalize space distribution, its adaptation to social evolution of different ways of life, the improvement of the quality of construction and house surface and the adequacy of the surfaces to the different programs. Today, the bet for sustainability and the quality of edification is reflected in PEVR since new means of improvement to foster renting and rehabilitation have new aid programmes to improve Energy Efficiency Certificate above the minimum requirement in Technical Edification Code (CTE).

The housing policy in Spain is based on the agreement among different Administrations since important funds are destined from the central Administration through the Housing State Plans and need an adjustment to the peculiarities of the Autonomous Communities and the necessary approach to the citizens through the Town halls. This system of management can guarantee that the aid programmes are received by the beneficiaries in the most efficient way

and are based on collaboration agreements between the Ministry and the Autonomous Communities which, in many programmes, are also extended to the Town halls.

The intervention of private agents is also a sine qua non for an efficient management of the Housing Plans. Financial entities that collaborate in the process of management of some aid programmes and the land promoters for protected houses and construction companies have a very relevant role for the follow-up of the objectives of the Plan. It is also significant to count on the collaboration of social representatives who know directly the needs of the groups of people who will be given preference in housing. These are low income citizens and those who need a special treatment due to a severe difficulty in acceding a home whether it is by their life stage, like young people or people older than 65 years old, or through special urgent reasons in order to dispose of lodging for the victims of gender violence, terrorism, and those affected by catastrophes, or due to dependency or disability.

The execution of the plans requires tools to adapt the offer of protected houses to the real demand. This management has to be done through the official registry office of petitioners, created by the regional governments and local councils. This mandatory requirement to obtain the aid programmes from the Plan would guarantee principles of equality, publicity, free concurrence and transparency in management procedures and calls for proposals for each aid program of the Plan. It would also facilitate official statistics about the current need for housing in Spain, prioritize the aid programmes and distribute the budgeted funds. Based on demand studies the offer of new protected houses is delivered through the Housing plans: State, regional and local. This offer can be strengthened by aid programmes from public or private entities especially those promoted by non-profit organizations that develop an important social work providing lodging for the most vulnerable groups of citizens.

Likewise, the obligatory reservation of land to be able to attend to the demand of this type of houses are indispensable for a proper programming of new protected dwellings. The percentage of protected houses in the free market that is foreseen in the urban programming established in the new Land Law in a minimum target of 30% of land reserves for these short of houses in the new urban development programs. This minimum limit has been surpassed by the urban regulations in several Autonomous Communities.

Another significant tool to execute housing policies are the aid programmes for land acquisition for urban development that allows to program the construction of protected houses in the future. To promote these urban operations, SEPES as a land operator linked with the Ministry carries out the formation of urban land for residential use and the acquisition of terrains destined to land reserves for the promotion of protected houses. Likewise, it manages the implementation of plans and projects, the creation of urban infrastructures and some certain protected operations in housing.

In relation with the current situation of the sector, the accumulation of unsold houses stock affects the financial sector in a decisive manner giving a burden in the accounts leading to the accumulating of real estate assets, generating supplies from unsold real estate and putting a stop in loan concessions. It has also produced a generalized stagnation of the economic activity with a very important impact on the destruction of jobs. Based on an analysis of the current situation, PEVR proposes some current measures gathered from contained Transitory Provisions in order to mitigate the effects of the crisis in the sector.

The economic crisis situation has recently obliged the governments spending budget to be cut to achieve the aim of 3% deficit in the state budget for the year 2013. This aim had already produced cut-offs in the expenses and objectives initially foreseen in PEVR in 2008.

This publication is a detailed explanation of the technical parameters and criteria for the management of housing policy in Spain and their application to the State Housing Plan to clarify its most essential goals, priorities, procedures, conditions and amounts of aid programmes widening the framework of the Plan with the adaptations that Autonomous Communities have carried out in their own regulations, in a way that it would also serve as an aid programmes guide for the citizens with more difficulties to access to a dwelling.

A second chapter has been added to this study about the aid programmes that have been developed by the Autonomous Communities with their own regulations and funds. Also, the modifications of the original Plan motivated by the economic crisis and its important influence on real estate sector have been included as mentioned before.

The complexity of managing housing aid programmes makes an additional effort on the part of Administrations necessary in giving information to the citizens and in creating technical task force specialized in the management of housing policies. A new objective that is part of the PEVR in aid programmes addressed to this purpose.

This publication aims to reflect on and develop concepts that contain housing plans in order to establish long-term solid bases of reference which help to guarantee some housing policy tools defined within PEVR and adapted to the peculiarities of the Autonomous Communities. These bases manifest a firm systematic methodology for the concession of aid programmes favoring the information to the agents involved in housing policy. This methodology also facilitates the effort in giving information to the citizens and promoting the effective enforcement of the right to access to a dwelling of the citizens.

This study is divided into two units:

- Unit I. The Housing and Rehabilitation State Plan from 2009 to 2012

- Unit II. The Autonomous Communities aid programmes to access to a dwelling

and an ANNEX about the regulation to adapt the PEVR to the Autonomous Communities and basic housing regulations in Navarre and the Basque Country.

Title: Ayudas para el acceso a la vivienda en Espaa Author: Felipe Vizcarro Germade Translated by the author in collaboration with Aniway Adap The link to access to this study: ONES/PUBLICACIONES/PUB_OF_LINEA/VIVIENDA/

Also, there is a link available in Youtube to find a presentation of this study: