Problems with housing aren't just confined to Palma. | Archive


Housing is not just a key issue for parties at the elections this spring, it is arguably the key issue. Rarely off the front pages, the themes are familiar - rising prices, difficulties with accessing housing, the level of foreign buying - and they combine in making housing a social issue for which solutions are spoken about but never seem to materialise.

On Tuesday, the Balearic parliament will hold its third debate on housing. Part of the proposals presented by Unidas Podemos to "guarantee" the right to housing in face of "the constant increase in the cost to rent" will be voted on. Pablo Jiménez of Unidas Podemos says that this cost has risen by 20% in the space of a year. One proposal that will not be tabled on Tuesday but which will be included in the party's election manifesto is the creation of a public company for property rental, something which has been greeted with the outright rejection of the property sector.

Marga Prohens, who will be the presidential candidate for the main opposition party, the Partido Popular, says that "the left has failed with its interventionist policies". The PP have four key points that will be in their manifesto and which, they say, will start to be applied within the first hundred days of government - a safe rental programme with mediation between owners and people looking for a home; a public-private rental promotion scheme to build homes at an agreed price; regulatory changes removing interventionist measures to streamline projects; and a package of tax incentives. The PP also insist that the Balearic government forgets the idea of preventing non-residents from buying a house. "It's a nonsense, just like that of using shipping containers," says a PP deputy, Sebastià Sagreras.

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For PSOE, the main party in the current coalition, public protected housing (VPO) and aid for rent payments are two key policies. The housing minister, Josep Marí, says that up to 15,000 VPO properties will have been built over the period of three administrations (assuming that there is a third).

Més, meanwhile, are critical of their government partners. What has been done so far is "insufficient". The Més presidential candidate, Lluis Apesteguia, stresses that "housing will be key for the next coalition (of the left)". Both Més and Unidas Podemos want a cap on rental prices and a ban on the sale of VPO properties, while they are demanding restrictions on sales to non-residents.

Among the opposition, only El Pi supports such restrictions, while for VPO housing the party believes that there should be proof of a minimum of two years of residence on the islands. Josep Melià of El Pi says that it is true that there is a "huge amount" of empty homes but that this is because renting-out is "unattractive" to owners and has "many insecurities"; tax is likewise unattractive. The party is in favour of regulatory change to facilitate conversion of commercial units and offices into housing. But attempts to promote conversion of "obsolete" hotel accommodation into homes have so far led nowhere.