The Government of Spain approves the Law on the Right to Housing

Council of Ministers - 2022.2.1

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Moncloa Palace, Madrid

The Council of Ministers has approved the referral of the draft Law on the Right to Housingto the Spanish Parliament for urgent parliamentary processing . The text was presented on 26 October and represents a milestone in the current democratic era as it is the first regulation that develops the constitutional right to decent and adequate housing.

Both the Minister for Territorial Policy and Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, and the Minister for Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, underlined that the future law consolidates the "fifth pillar of the Welfare State".

Raquel Sánchez stated that the government has drawn up a "rigorous, solid, compact and transversal" law that protects the social function that housing must fulfil and has the vocation to last over time. Furthermore, she reiterated that the motivation behind the regulation is to respond to the needs of people and households with the greatest access difficulties, such as young people "whose ability to emancipate themselves has been limited".

In the minister's opinion, the law is essential because the market has proved ineffective in responding to the needs of these groups: "The public authorities must guarantee the right to housing and prevent speculation". Sánchez has maintained that "the law is not against owners but against speculation", protecting their rights and recognising their obligations.

Order in the housing sector

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando CalvoAlong the same lines, the Minister for Social Rights and 2030 Agenda, Ione Belarra, considers that this first housing law coming into force during democracy in Spain allows us to begin to put the real estate sector in order and leave behind real estate bubbles, speculation and urban development corruption scandals.

Belarra recalled that the 2008 financial crisis led to thousands of evictions, that abusive mortgage clauses led many families into debt and that the subsequent bubble in the rental market caused rental prices to rise by 50% between 2015 and 2020. This situation, he pointed out, has benefited investment funds and large landowners, while it has compromised the economy of a large majority of families who have to spend a large part of their income on rent or mortgages.

"That is why it was time to rebalance that balance, and that is why this law protects tenants, who are the weakest part of the equation, makes it easy for small landlords and at the same time demands the necessary co-responsibility from large landlords in guaranteeing the right to housing," she said.

The law does not encroach on regional competences

The Minister for Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda has expressed the Executive's "absolute respect" for the mandatory and non-binding report issued last Friday by the General Judicial Council, in which she has contributed with some considerations.

The government understands that the scope of the report should be limited to the three articles of the Civil Procedure Act that are amended by the new housing law. Raquel Sánchez added that the Executive maintains that delimiting the Spanish State's scope of action in this area to create public housing stocks and set standards to provide decent and affordable housing for the most vulnerable economic groups does not encroach on any regional competences.

Furthermore, the draft law recognises the capacity and offers the competent territorial administrations instruments to approve and complement the measures they deem necessary to make the basic right to housing effective.

Responsibility of political parties

Both ministers have appealed to the responsibility of the different political parties to ensure that this legal initiative, which does not go against anyone and favours the general interest, is approved. They also thanked all the ministries involved in the drafting of the regulation for their work.

Raquel Sánchez insisted that it is a historic law, like the laws on equal marriage, abortion, euthanasia and dependency.

Ione Belarra recognised "the generous work, drive and commitment" of the social movement for decent housing in defence of a right that belongs to everyone, as is the constitutional right to housing.

Main aspects of the law

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando CalvoOne of the most important measures concerns the public social housing stock. Raquel Sánchez explained that the stock is subject to permanent protection "so that it cannot be alienated, as happened in the past". For her part, Belarra said that she valued the imposition of a compulsory reserve of 30% of any development for subsidised housing and that of this 30%, 15% must go to social renting, so that a public housing stock can gradually be built up, in line with the European countries. In France, by way of example, there is seven times more social housing than in Spain, and in the Netherlands there is twelve times more.

The law will improve the regulation of evictions in situations of vulnerability. Raquel Sánchez underlined that, from now on, social services will coordinate more effectively with judges to offer housing solutions to those affected. Belarra stressed that the law will guarantee that the housing alternative sought for these families will be real housing, and not a hostel, as is currently the case in some regions.

Raquel Sánchez explained that, for a limited period, the competent authorities will be able to declare areas with a stressed residential market and establish measures to prevent abusive rent increases and achieve a reduction in prices, either by reducing the cost of rent or by increasing supply. Ione Belarra added that the planned tax incentives in these areas are designed to make it more profitable for landlords to lower rental prices.

With regard to empty dwellings, the law contemplates that local councils can levy a surcharge of up to 150% on the Property Tax (IBI) that is levied on them. Belarra pointed out that the government considers it "unethical" that there are empty homes when so many people need one, making it necessary for them to get onto the rental or sale market.

The 0 to 3 year old cycle receives educational status and will be free of charge

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando Calvo The Executive has established the organisation and minimum teaching standards for pre-primary education, which will apply from the 2022-2023 school year. This is the first decree implementing the Organic Law for the Modification of the LOE (LOMLOE), while the decrees corresponding to Primary Education, ESO and Baccalaureate are expected to be approved in the coming weeks.

The Minister for Territorial Policy and Government Spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, informed that for the first time all pre-school education will have educational status and the first cycle (0-3 years) will no longer be of just a welfare or care nature. The aim of this stage is to contribute to the physical, emotional and social development of children, to their cognitive and artistic development and to education in coexistence.

The text establishes free access to the second cycle and its progressive extension from the first cycle, prioritising access for pupils in situations of poverty and social exclusion. Rodríguez pointed out that this decree responds to the government's "desire to advance democratisation and equal access to these places".

The spokesperson underlined that the government has made an initial effort by allocating a total investment of more than €670 million to create more than 65,000 free state school places for children aged 0 to 3 years, as a "mechanism for social cohesion and guaranteeing equality from birth".

The regional governments will establish the curriculum for Pre-school Education, of which these minimum teachings will form part, although it will always be the teachers who adapt them to the children in their group.

Deconcentration of state headquarters

Foto: Pool Moncloa/Fernando CalvoThe Minister for Territorial Policy has announced that the Council of Ministers will soon approve a Royal Decree on the deconcentration of the headquarters of newly created state institutional public sector entities, a measure that is included in the Strategy for the Demographic Challenge.

Rodríguez explained that, while Spain has made progress in political decentralisation with the consolidation of the autonomous regions, a large part of its administrative structures remain concentrated: "This is what we are trying to reverse and that is why we see the General State Administration as a leading agent for the structuring of the territory and the revitalisation of depopulated areas or areas in demographic decline".

The minister reviewed some already executed examples of deconcentration, such as the Automated Complaints Processing Centre of the Directorate General of Traffic located in León, the State Reference Centre for Rare Diseases in Burgos and the Renfe Digital Competence Centre in Miranda de Ebro.

The future Royal Decree will regulate the procedure for determining the new venues, which will be open, transparent and competitive. Any regional government or city, provincial administration, city hall, island council or town hall may apply to be a locality and factors such as the unemployment rate, the connection with the entity's scope of action, the housing market and the number of state public institutions in the region will be taken into account. The role of public employees will also be considered, incorporating the possibility of offering them advantageous transfer conditions and the guarantee that the public entity will be able to carry out its functions effectively in that locality.

Non official translation