Conversion of premises is the most feasible option under the government's housing emergency legislation. | Archive

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According to the builders association in the Balearics, the government's housing emergency decree has had very little impact. A high-profile measure by the Partido Popular following last year's election, the decree was confirmed as law in May. But this has failed to make any difference, says the association.

The decree (passed in late September) and now law are designed to create what the government has termed limited-price housing. Permissions will be given for certain changes to existing buildings so as to create residential accommodation either for sale or for rent at rates determined by the government and which vary according to location.

The most feasible option is conversion of commercial premises. However, the association says that there has been little redevelopment along these lines and blames town halls for the lack of progress.

The association's manager, Sandra Verger, points out that none of the provisions for this type of housing involve the use of more land. "It is important that the town halls support them, but they are not doing so." Some town halls, she notes, have imposed a requirement that the premises have to been closed for ten years. "Having to wait ten years? It doesn't make sense."

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Another requirement is an obligation to create a parking space. "That is not feasible in many cases. These are senseless things that do not aid the generation of new housing."

Housing ministry figures indicate that, of the 67 municipalities in the Balearics, only 23 have adopted regulations for conversion of premises. A further 29 have not made any statement on the matter, while another ten have temporarily suspended applications until a definitive decision is made. In five municipalities, it has been decided not to allow conversion. The ministry is aware of 40 limited-price housing projects. "These seem very little to us," says Verger.

The government points out that the town halls have until August 10 to adopt a definitive position. It is "normal" for local authorities to take their time in studying the legislative text and the implications of applying the different options.

The president of the Felib federation of town halls, Maria de la Salut's mayor Jaume Ferriol says that a majority are in favour of conversion. "Builders should be happy," he reckons. He adds that close consideration is being given to another possibility - the division of existing large apartments into smaller ones - while a third option, adding extra floors to buildings, is something he believes is only really feasible in the largest municipalities.