Friday, May 27

Touristification causes mini-flats to spread in the Canary Islands

The data stands out at first glance. In all the yearbooks Property registration (published since 2004), Canarias always leads the purchase of homes of less than 40 square meters compared to the total number of properties purchased. If in the Islands the percentage is usually close to 10%, the State average does not exceed 3.5%. And with respect to homes between 40 and 60 square meters, in the Archipelago they exceed 23%, while in the country as a whole it remains at 16%. The first hypothesis that jumps out at the experts comes together in a concept: touristification of the territory.

After a few seconds of reflection, Eduardo González de Molina, an associate researcher from the Canary Islands at New York University and a doctoral candidate in Housing Policies at Pompeu Fabra University, came up with this idea: “The use of dwellings as flats tourist. A property of 40 square meters offers a perfect use for the tourist route and more in the Canary Islands. In the Islands there is no regulation that limits the introduction of Airbnb and it probably has something to do with that”.

Alejandro Armas, a Tenerife geographer at the University of Leipzig, delves into this line. “It may have to do with short-term rental, too. The house is bought as an element for investment and is used to rent”. The communities that follow the Archipelago in the purchase of properties of less than 40m2 are the Balearic Islands (7.59%), Madrid (4.10%) and Catalonia (4.01%). “They are mainly tourist regions,” concludes the expert.

The theory can be verified (in a certain way), by going to the database of AirDNA, provider of information and analysis for the short-term rental sector. In Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where at the beginning of the year there were 949 apartments for this service, 43% were one-bedroom and 33% two-bedroom. As the number of bedrooms increases, it becomes less attractive to the industry. “They are not substandard. This is what is offered in this area”, continues Armas.

Another way of scrutinizing the hypothesis is by analyzing the figures from the latest housing census carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), published in 2011. We see that, with regard to houses of less than 30 square metres, the province Las Palmas leads the classification in Spain, with 0.67% of the total, only ahead of Madrid (0.60%) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (0.51%). For properties between 30 and 45m2, practically the same result: Madrid at the top, with 5.8%, followed by Las Palmas (5.19%) and Santa Cruz de Tenerife (4.77%).

“In the tourist islands there are very powerful housing investment processes,” adds Armas. “These actors don’t buy a flat to rent it to a group of people. They buy it to dedicate it to tourism. I rent them more”. Eduardo González adds: “The Canary Islands have limited land and it may also have something to do with it. But I would opt for that option: funds that buy complete housing packages to touristize them”. In the Archipelago, about one in four houses is bought by a foreigner (23.73%). Only the Balearic Islands have a higher percentage (32.76%).

Does buying smaller houses equal more overcrowding?

Juan Samuel García Henríquez, a geographer from the University of La Laguna (ULL) specializing in inequality, gender and citizen participation, says that the first thing he thought of when he heard all this string of data was the low purchasing power in the Canary Islands, where average income in 2019 (latest update from the Tax Agency) was 20,938 euros, only ahead of Murcia (20,345), Castilla La Mancha (19,697), Andalusia (19,682) and Extremadura (17,777).

“The greater vulnerability that the Canary Islands have, as social indicators show us, is also reflected in the houses. These average surface figures are a sign of the poorer quality of the housing that is accessed in the Canary Islands with respect to the rest”, highlights García. “Access to housing is a trigger for strong social exclusion. Even more than having a part-time or full-time job, emphasizes Maite Arrondo, a consultant on Innovation in Housing Policies who works for the Barcelona City Council’s Housing and Rehabilitation Institute.

However, the information provided by the Property Registry does not speak of flats for rent, but of the sale of real estate, so, Eduardo González clarifies, it is important to remember that “overcrowding operates on a population that does not have money to buy a house”. The latest data from the INE indicate that, according to the tenure regime, the percentage of homes for rent in the Islands amounts to 16.22%. In the State as a whole, the average is lower, falling 13.48%.