Empty homes - a problem for Palma. | S.B.


Based on reports from the College of Architects and others, the main opposition party in Palma, the Partido Popular, estimates that there are some 30,000 empty homes in the city. Many of these, the party says, are in the hands of large owners, such as banks, and the PP candidate for Palma mayor, Jaime Martínez, has announced a plan by which he hopes that these properties will be put on the market and help alleviate the city's housing problems.

Martínez said on Monday that many owners don't wish to place empty homes on the rental market because of potential legal and financial insecurity. "If tenants stop paying the monthly rent, there are few tools, and very slow ones, to deal with this. It can then become squatting with all the problems we know that that entails."

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He is therefore proposing a package of fiscal measures, a regulatory framework and legal certainty "to encourage the owners of these empty properties to put them up for rent". A PP administration, Martínez added, will create a municipal office to promote collaboration with private owners, to offer guarantees in the case of non-paying tenants and to promote tax incentives. There is to also be a plan against squatting.

The current coalition administration is also acutely aware that there are many empty homes. The mayor, José Hila of PSOE, has announced that the town hall will increase the IBI council tax by 50 per cent for empty homes (as a means of trying to force properties onto the market). This surcharge will need regulatory approval from Madrid. Provision for it is contemplated under new national housing legislation that is being processed at present.