The positions on the measures to be adopted to alleviate the lack of access to rental housing and the causes of this problem usually have two very different diagnoses. On the one hand, there are those who demand that the market and the rule of supply and demand rule. On the other, the movement to defend access to housing, which recalls the constitutional right to decent housing. In the middle, the Government, which at the moment does not speak, while its Housing Law has not yet reached a draft. This is one of the most important commitments of the coalition agreement and one of the issues that promise to be very present this fall.
elDiario.es has wanted to analyze the context of access to rent in each Spanish province in the last five years in a combined way, with variables that affect to a greater or lesser extent, such as unemployment and average salary, data on public housing investment, or presence of tourist flats or houses and large real estate holders. It has also been decided to include three sources of prices that hardly coincide or not at all.
The data is compiled in a viewer that allows all the variables to be consulted jointly for each province, in addition to being able to be ordered vertically according to each one of them (press here to view it in full screen).
The first thing that surprises is the great difference between the measurements of the two real estate portals that manage the most rents: Idealista and Fotocasa. If for the first are Lleida, Ávila, Pontevedra, Cáceres and La Rioja the provinces where the price has increased the most since 2017, for the second are Huelva, València, Araba, Pontevedra and Almería. They only coincide in one, and with different percentages.
Neither of the two provinces that concentrate the areas traditionally most cited as being particularly stressed is among the top ten. For Idealista, Madrid is the third to last, with a 4.9% decrease in price since 2017. For Fotocasa, the situation is significantly different, and the square meter has not decreased, but has risen by 21% in the last five years.
In Barcelona, where the regional rent price containment law has been applied since last year, Fotocasa estimates that the price has risen by 6.8%, but Idealista estimates that it has dropped by 12%. From this last portal they indicate that they do not value the competition, although they do point out that their sample is the largest in the market since they exceed one million advertisements offered. Fotocasa has not responded to the information requests of this medium.
The provinces of Madrid and Barcelona do appear in the first ten places in the ranking of the National Institute of Statistics with the highest price increase: 6% in Madrid and 4.5% in Barcelona. Both are behind Girona, Valencia or Malaga. The main difference between the methodologies of the real estate portals and the INE is that they measure the supply (the price at which the owners propose to rent their homes when uploading an advertisement) and the public body asks households how much they pay per month for their home , which brings them closer to reality.
Another difference is the muscle of the INE and the care of its sample, 5,500 households distributed equally among municipalities of different sizes. Idealista and Fotocasa depend on the number of owners who decide to use their portals to offer their flats, and large localities are usually more represented.
Javier Rubio, a lawyer from the Centro de Asesoría y Estudios Sociales and an expert in housing law, asks for more public information on rental prices, and for it to be more accessible. He believes perverse that the first thing that citizens see on the internet is the ranking of the two portals: “The bidders, which is what the two prepare their reports with, sign up without studying the market, without making averages.” The tendency thus is to put the property at the highest possible price, compared to other similar advertisements.
In Vitoria-Gasteiz, they report from their Tenants Union, there is often the case of small owners who rent their homes “at skyrocketing prices” to families who cannot find better alternatives, “especially in the center”, when they are “in terrible conditions “: no ventilation, no elevators, no heating, structural deficiencies …
Getting to the statistical tables of the INE is not easy and the data that the Ministry of Transport publishes in its reference price index is from 2018. “The portals have today’s price; what are you going to look at when it comes to decide what price to put on your apartment? ”, concludes Rubio.
Unemployment and increases
If the unemployment figures are focused in combination with the rest of the variables, the ten provinces in which unemployment has grown the most have also suffered significant price increases: the two Canary Islands together with Alicante, Almería, Huelva, València, Baleares, La Rioja and Jaén, in addition to Madrid, which is in fifth position. In these provinces “the rental price is decoupled from the level of employment, it doesn’t matter if unemployment increases,” says Rubio. It may have more to do with the presence of investors or tourist rental. “Of course, in these areas the increase in the price of rents does not mean that the welfare of the population has increased,” he reflects.
The tourist apartments variable reflects the evolution of properties regularly dedicated to vacation rentals. The INE also collects separately the homes for tourist use, the so-called VUTs, which include the offer of platforms such as Airbnb or Home Away: private flats that are not continuously dedicated to this activity. In this case, they have only been collected since the summer of 2020, so it has not been possible to study their evolution. Adding the two with data from 2020, currently the percentage of total households (between 6% and 8% of the total) is higher in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Girona, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the Balearic Islands and Malaga.
Las Palmas stands out, with 35,600 flats that are offered for tourist use, more than 8% of the total number of homes in the province. “Tourist housing has a great impact in terms of the increase in the cost of rental housing here”, remarks Isabel Saavedra, from the Union of Tenants of Gran Canaria. “We are talking about the private market, but if this is combined with social housing, it is the perfect storm.” “The demand for public housing is more than 17,000 applicants according to the Government of the Canary Islands”, he adds.
It is difficult to analyze public investment in housing in these provinces compared to current unemployment figures. The latest measurements of public budgets are prior to the pandemic, in 2019, and it would be less rigorous to face them against the 2021 strike. Yes, it can be seen in relation to average wages, of which the information available to 2019 is also limited. In both cases, it has been decided, in order to have a five-year observation period, to use the range from 2015 to 2019.
Without taking into account Euskadi and Navarra, for which there is no data in the Tax Agency, the provinces in which the average salary has increased the least in this period are Melilla, Ceuta, La Rioja, Cantabria and Burgos, followed by Guadalajara, Palencia , Madrid again, Asturias and Segovia.
After facing this parameter in the viewer with the public investment in housing of the municipalities, and of those that collects the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, it would be medium and small provinces that suffer the most: Asturias, for example, in 2015 invested 6.6 million euros in housing from its municipalities in the towns of Avilés, Langreo, Mieres, Siero, Castrillón and Gijón, but in 2019 the figure had dropped to 1.5 million. In Segovia the investment was reduced from 332,000 euros to just over 141,000; in La Rioja it went from 3 million to 1.8 million adding the budgets of Calahorra and Logroño, and in Ceuta 1.5 million less were invested in housing in 2019 compared to 2015.
Investment in housing, yes, it does not mean construction of real estate. Saavedra, in Gran Canaria, is surprised by the data for the province of Las Palmas, with a growth of 241%, from 6.6 million in 2015 to 22.7 in 2019 in the municipal budgets of Agüimes, Arrecife, Arucas, Ingenio, Mogán, Pájara, San Bartolomé and Santa Lucía de Tirajana and Las Palmas. “It is a notorious fact that public housing has not been created in the Canary Islands for more than ten years, so we do not know what has been invested in, perhaps in the case of rehabilitation or replacement works.”
The General Directorate of Cadastre publishes information on the ownership of the real estate, distinguishing the volume of the holders, although it is not specified whether they are destined for sale or rent, with which the weight on the general housing stock can be measured, but it is more difficult to deduce the specific impact on the lease.
According to Fernando Bardera, from the Madrid Union, this information serves to understand that the concentration of housing “is important when it comes to knowing who puts the rental prices on the market, or even if the houses are not offered, and based on what criteria, speculative in many cases. ”In this region, there are 2,612 more large holders than five years ago, the community where they have grown the most in number.
Also, each great fork can have eleven stories or eleven thousand. The exact figure is impossible to know, thanks in part to the secrecy of real estate, investment funds and even public housing companies. In Albacete there are 2,038 owners who in 2021 have more than ten urban homes each; in Cádiz, 4,709; in the Balearic Islands, 9,272; in Barcelona, 25,640 and in Madrid, 26,573. But the distribution and its impact on prices is unknown.
Daniel Granda, from the Ibiza union, considers that prices and access to rent cannot be explained only with these data. “Perhaps we should also look at the numbers of private investment, facilities when building, the target audience for the purchase or their prices.” On the island, prices are, he says, adulterated by seasonality and the high number of seasonal rentals in fraud of law: “They are made at a low price in winter that then rises in summer, so that the lower price is reflected in the portals database “.
According to the Cadastre, the provinces in which the presence of large landlords has grown the most in the last five years, not counting Navarra and Euskadi (without data in the Treasury), are Ourense (from 4,800 large owners in 2017 to 6,474 in 2021) , and Lugo, also in Galicia, with almost 750 entities or more people compared to five years ago who own more than ten homes. They are followed by Zamora, Burgos, Soria, Cuenca, León, Extremadura in its entirety and Zaragoza. At the other extreme are Melilla, Ceuta, La Rioja, Castellón and Toledo.
In the province of Barcelona there is 7.2% more than in 2017 and 428 more than last year, having also grown in a pandemic and even under the rent control measure. In the Madrid region, however, there are 684 fewer, which could mean a reduction in real estate interest, or a greater growth in the concentration of housing in the macro-companies in the sector.
The comparison of available data is useful to see some trends and correlations, but they are not a panacea nor do they show the photo finish perfect. For Ricardo Arnedo and Nacho Serrano, from the Zaragoza Tenants Union, it would be important to study the requirements for access to housing. “In recent years we have been able to observe how the demands and conditions such as a certain level of income, provide employment contracts and payroll, duration of employment contract, guarantees, etc. are becoming more and more general.”
In short, access to rent is highly determined by these requirements that, for the moment, the Government has not been interested in observing or measuring, and therefore are outside of any regulation. For the market and today, the sky here is the limit.