Housing - one of the main issues facing Mallorca. | Pere Bota


On Monday, a conference in Palma considered one of the main issues, if not the main issue, facing Mallorca and the Balearics - housing. The conference title was Housing in the Balearic Islands: Problems, Causes and Solutions. It was attended by representatives of different elements of the real-estate market - architects, builders, developers, estate agents. There were no politicians, but the message was political insofar as there was agreement that governments must adopt a long-term policy, rather than issue "decrees", and undertake structural reform of the current housing model regardless of political party colours.

The lack of subsidised housing, legal uncertainty, regulatory limitations; these were identified as obstacles that must be addressed by the political class.

Luis Martín, president of the Proinba association of developers, observed that "we have very confusing legislation and through which developable land has been withdrawn from the market in what is an already very limited territory". "You don't have to be an economist to know that prices will rise because of this."

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Martín focused on a need to revise regulations on housing density and so be able to have higher buildings. "Height doesn't have to scare us. On the Llevant estate (in Palma), for example, there could be eight floors rather than six." He urged action as soon as possible to "tear down regulatory walls". "Ultimately, it is something that will end up being done because there will be no other choice."

Joan Cerdà of the College of Architects in the Balearics recognised that the housing problem is one faced by the whole Spanish state and by the whole of Europe. He agreed with Martín that higher buildings can offer a solution, but noted that people get concerned "as they tend to think of Manhattan". He advocated the transfer of land for social housing. "You have to use urban planning well. Misused, it is a mechanism that does a lot of damage."

The CEO of the builders association, Sandra Verger, said: "We are not building enough and this has put pressure on the second-hand market and on rental prices." Expediting urban planning procedures, she stressed, is something else that administrations must address.

José Miguel Artieda of the College of Estate Agents called for "direct and effective measures" and criticised the absence of a truly efficient public planning structure. "We have a non-existent Housing Board and an equally non-existent Housing Observatory." He emphasised the importance of having hard statistical data "at least every four years" in respect of, for example, the number of empty properties in each municipality.