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Housing system and welfare state. The Spanish case within the European context

Jordi Bosch, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Carme Trilla, Barcelona Metropolitan Housing Observatory; Adaptation: Xavier Aguilar

From 1952 to date, in Spain over 6.8 million homes have been built with some kind of subsidy. This represents 26% of the total of the housing stock (estimated at 25.5 million homes). However, this housing stock has gradually passed over into private hands and the public sector has not been able to equip itself with subsidised residential resources to cater for the needs of successive generations. Today, the potential demand for social housing is calculated at 1.5 million homes and, in accordance with demographic projections, this could rise to 2.6 million by the year 2030.
Key points
  • 1
       In Spain, 38.4% of families with lower incomes (first quintile of income) are in a situation of overburden (households in which the cost of the mortgage or rental represents over 40% of total income). Among households in the second quintile, this rate falls to 11%, while for the total population the average stands at 19.8%.
  • 2
       Looking specifically at the rental market segment, the rate of overburden of the population in general stands at 42.1%, the highest in Europe.
  • 3
       In Spain, there are some 276,000 social rental dwellings, which represents just 1.5% of the housing pool. Historically, public action has prioritised access to ownership through state-subsidised housing sales.
  • 4
       In Spain, investment in housing policies is at the lower end of the European comparison: it receives only 0.9% of the total budget for social affairs, which represents 0.23% of GDP.
Housing as part of public spending
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Spending on social protection represents 39.9% of total public spending. Within this section of the budgets, there is very little margin for spending on social housing, which represents only 0.1% of total public spending.

Low social spending on housing causes imbalances that overburden other welfare state benefits, which in turn affects the state coffers. Not having a decent and appropriate place to live with regard to physical and economic conditions has a negative effect on health, on children’s educational development and on the needs for assistance and social services for the most vulnerable people in the dwelling.

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