On april 19 the data on housing of the 2011 census have been published by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (demographic data were published prior, with a total population of 46,815 millions). The main figures are:
- 25,208 millions housing units (a rise of 4,26 millions for the last decade)
- 18,083 million permanently occupied units (a rise of 3,89 millions)
- 3,681 million seasonal units (a rise of 28.602 units)
- 3,443 million vacant units (a rise of 336.943 units)
The general dynamic for the last century has been:
- +14,6% population
- +27,5% permanently occupied homes (equal to family units)
- +20,3% overall housing units.
Spain is a big country, in geography and in population, so these numbers summarize quite diverse local conditions. By regions, the highest rise in overall units has been in Murcia (an area subject to tourism demand) with 31,1%, and the lowest in the Basque country (the region with the most stringent growth control and regional planning system), with 14,4%.
What do these figures mean when compared to other contexts?
According to the INSEE data, in France there were in 2012 (for 65,6 millions residents) a grand total of 33,192 million housing units, of which 27,680 mill. were permanently occupied, 3,153 mill. seasonally occupied, and 2,359 mill. vacant.
The US Census Bureau shows for 2011 (for 311 million people) 132,419 million units overall, of which 114,907 mill. year round occupied, 4,133 mill. seasonal, and 13,379 mill. vacant.
Comparing the data from the three countries, the average household size (persons per permanent housing unit) is rather similar, with 2,5 in Spain, 2,4 in France and 2,7 in the US. The main difference is in the vacancy rate (vacant units in the overall housing stock): 13,7% in Spain, 7% in France, 10,1% in the US (a large market with higher local values, as 14% in metro Phoenix). Seasonal housing rate is also different: 14,6% in Spain, 9,% in France, 3,1% in the US; the effect of the “northeuropean drem” of a house under the sun are important.
The census shows the relevance of history: the region with the highest ratio of seasonal housing (Castilla y Leon) and the region with the highest percentage of vacant housing (Galicia) owe these results mainly to the intense depopulation in the rural areas during the XXth century.
While the vacant units built during the last decade were over 700.000 in 2011, there were also over a million units built between 1961 and 1980, in worse conditions and with more problems to reintegrate the market.These are two different kinds of problem: the first is a banking and general economy problem, as often these homes were still held by the developer, and they have been also often repossessed by the lending banks due to payment defaults, while the second implies much more diffuse economic losses, but a potentially harder urban problem: decay.