Living in your own place is a reasonable goal to have. Many articles in the Spanish news talk about the cost of an apartment by the square metre, the shortage of decent homes on the market or the fall (or rise) in house-sales and maybe the problems with noise, location, neighbours, lack of transport and so on. Other articles – aimed more at the foreign readers – treat of similar things, but differently. We are no longer in the city looking at apartments on the seventh floor, but on the coast or the islands, wondering if there’s a decent school nearby and if some developer is going to come along next year and spoil the view. The local town hall is pleased enough to have us no doubt, but generally prefers tourism over mass foreign settlers and is more concerned about its hoteliers and local souvenir shop-owners than its foreign dog-owners. The foreigners, you see, don’t vote much and they don’t have a lobby.
There is a third kind of property story though – and that’s about those who don’t own the property they live in. They generally can’t afford to own and they may be stuck with a lifetime mortgage or perhaps must put up with landlords who want them out (default, unpaid rents, owner wants to sell the place, or divide it into two, or put up the rent…). More cheerfully, the growing number of foreign renters includes those sensible souls who intend to buy a place… but later.
Vulture Funds – investment houses that operate solely for profit – can be a problem, putting the rents up by a hefty chunk, or failing to keep up the maintenance or even, as happened in Valencia last week, waiting until the 82 year-old-lady went out to buy something at the shop, before rushing in and changing the locks. Other owners might even use anti-okupa companies to remove tenants rather than wait for the slow process of law.
Apartments for rent can be a bit small these days, or maybe there’s just a room for rent, or may just a bunk bed in a room for rent.
Another route is to stay with your parents, or live in a caravan (or even a car), or to go and find an empty home (that could be used for squatting in). There are apparently some 3.4 million empty homes in Spain (mostly owned by the banks and, on paper at least, of value). We worry not so much about these – they are usually unfinished or without services – as about the second homes taken over, on occasion, by professional mafia groups that then pass them on to discriminating squatters with some extra cash. Owners of these may resort to the courts or perhaps the desokupa people. A home with squatters is not the same as a home with tenants who are in arrears. In their case, it might take years to eject them legally.
We could move far from the city and try our luck in an old abandoned village, far from all amenities. The hippy settlers of Fragua in Guadalajara tried this. After ten years of concentrated opposition from the regional government, plus a few of their number thrown into jail for illegal occupation, they have now thrown in the towel. So much, say the hippies, for repopulating the empty regions of Spain.
Hoping to find new places to turn into homes, even slightly peculiar ones, some cities are now allowing those empty or abandoned ground-floor business spaces built and bricked up below the apartment blocks to be turned into homes. Madrid is already allowing this and now Galicia is following suit.
Another issue for home owners and renters alike is mass-tourism. Too many tourists waving their cameras, attracting the pickpockets, the tour guides, tuk tuks, the wally-trolleys and the souvenir-shoppe people. They also attract short-term rentals (as Airbnb) which are far more profitable than regularly leased apartments. In short, the centre of Madrid or Barcelona can be a dreadful place to live ‘as they are turned practically into theme parks’ (it’s true of some resorts as well, such as Mojácar which only took down its Ferrero Rocher Christmas Decorations on Andalucía Day this Wednesday February 28th).
In all, maybe the hippies were on the right path… they just needed shorter hair.
From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Foreign demand for property in Spain hit an all-time high in 2022 according to the latest figures from the Spanish Land Registrars’ Association. 94,481 Spanish home sales involved a foreign buyer in 2022, an increase of 55% on 2021, say the latest figures. Local demand was up 9% to 551,760, meaning total demand of 646,241 in 2021, up 14%’.
The Fifteen-Minute City. In Spain, 90% of city dwellers (‘cities’ being 50,000 inhabitants or more), can expect full nearby services of schools, a medical centre/hospital, bank, pharmacy, shops, bars and restaurants. That’s to say, within a walking distance of a quarter of an hour. Outside of work, goes the theory, one hardly needs transport at all. An article at elDiario.es explains that ‘…Spain is one of the leading countries in the world where a high percentage of the population lives in either flats or apartments (the difference is explained here), according to data from the OECD. The concentration of population in a reduced space is even higher than in countries like Switzerland, Germany or Italy. Spanish cities are surprisingly crowded and most have densities of over 10,000 people per square kilometre…’ But, are Fifteen Minute Cities and the Agenda 2030 just a cunning plan to control us? ‘No’, says Maldita (the scourge of fake news) here.
When one needs a mortgage, then the property must first be valued for the bank. What happens if the dwelling is wrongly appraised? From elDiario.es here: ‘The Bank of Spain imposes “very serious” infractions on the main housing appraisers. Inspectors have detected internal operating failures that call into question the ability "to know the situation and conditions of the real estate market." Among those fined are Tinsa, Gloval Valuation and Gesvalt, which between them account for more than 44% of the appraisal market’.
‘Homes in Spain cost more than you would expect’, says The Sun here in a ‘bleak’ warning quoting a TV personality called Laura Hamilton who appears in a show called A Place in the Sun. We read that the presenter (artfully posing in front of a house with, erm, a Greek flag) is ‘also a property expert’. The same article also appears in The Mirror, The Irish Sun, The Daily Star, Edinburgh Live (which, uh, gets it wrong with a double negative – ‘The TV presenter believes that many people looking to buy a home in the European country haven't realised that the Spanish property market hasn't recovered’), The Liverpool Echo, The Leicester Mercury and, of course, The Express. Is this anti-Spanish propaganda, or just plain stupidity. In Spain, we can enjoy a similar article in The Weenie.
The new Corvera airport isn't doing well. From elDiario.es here: 'Six flights a day, no buses and a hole of 180 million euros: four years of the failed Corvera airport in Murcia. "It's in the middle of nowhere," observes one of the passengers. The facility is a veritable island: September 15, 2022 was the last time a bus passed through the airfield. No more are expected until the summer'.
El Huff Post lists those who are eligible for the Imserso holidays here.
From El Economista here: ‘…the president of the Círculo de Empresarios, Manuel Pérez-Sala at the 'la Caixa Foundation’ colloquium said: "The Spanish economy and business are in the hands of the wrong people during a crucial year". The leader of the business organization has been very harsh with the policy promoted by the Government and has insisted that it is impossible to sustain the current employment system without a delay in the retirement age. To do this, he has proposed extending working life to 72 years. "I know it's hard to hear but it's impossible to sustain the system without postponing retirement age to between 68 and 72," he said…’
A fuss is brewing with the Spanish construction company Ferrovial which has just moved its headquarters to Amsterdam to lower its taxes. Not everyone is happy, here and here.
The peculiar moción de censura from Vox has now been officially presented for debate and a vote. Vox’s candidate for president of Spain is the 89 year old Ramón Tamames who would no doubt turn a few heads if the motion were to win. The subject will probably be dealt with by the Cortes in mid-March. More at Onda Cero who wonders – how will the PP be voting? elDiario.es has some fun here. Even El Mundo has its doubts, reminding us that the erstwhile communist (!) Tamames was in favour of renaming Cataluña as ‘Nación Catalana’ following the illegal Catalonian referendum for independence in 2017 (known in Spanish as el uno de Octubre or just 1-O). He also recommended moving the Senate to Barcelona (probably not a bad idea at that).
From The Telegraph here: ‘The Madrid regional president vows to turn city into ‘Florida of Europe’ as she wages war on the Left. The move is part of Isabel Díaz Ayuso’s campaign to topple the socialist-communist coalition government and become Spain’s first female PM’. The article says: ‘…Much like Boris Johnson when he was London mayor, her powerbase in her country’s capital has made her an occasional thorn in the side of her party’s leadership but also a political superstar tipped for the highest office…’ (Thanks to Jake – we would have surely missed this one).
From Ideal here: ‘Sinn Féin promises to recognize an independent Catalonia if the party governs the Republic of Ireland’
There’s a hose-pipe ban in Catalonia at the present time – no garden watering while the crops in the region must deal with a 40% reduction. Catalonia has suffered from 29 months of low rainfall says elDiario.es here. Catalan News has more here.
‘Spain, a new force in the EU’. The Political Room (castellano) says that with the absence of the UK and the weak foreign politics of Germany’s Chancellor Sholz, Spain has risen to a prominent place in the European Union. The article says that ‘…The economic crisis of 2008 put Spanish influence in the EU to a minimum. The crisis significantly reduced the economic power of Spain with the consequent increase in unemployment and public debt. This caused the Spanish government to focus on internal affairs and the consequences of the crisis rather than on its European policy, condemning the country to a second string in Brussels. With the coming to power of Pedro Sánchez, the situation began to change, since one of the pillars of his agenda was to reposition Spain as one of the leaders in EU decision-making…’
‘The European Union has once again postponed the launch of the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), this time for the year 2024, without giving an exact date, or even month...’. From an item at SVI here. The Olive Press had earlier reported that Francisco Salado, the president of Tourism and Planning Costa del Sol (here) as well as president of the provincial council (la diputación) of Málaga, tells Brussels ‘to stop inventing new taxes’, and is calling for ‘economic compensation’ as soon as the tax (a 7€ surcharge on non-EU tourists) comes into effect. 18 million Brits chose Spain for their holidays back in 2019.
The story goes that the lack of fresh fruit and veg in the British supermarkets is down to bad weather in Spain. The Spanish media, anxious to help, are running stories like this one found in La Razón: ‘The British Government urges its citizens to eat turnips due to the lack of fresh products in supermarkets. The authorities blamed the situation on bad weather in Spain and Morocco, but consumers have begun to share images of full supermarkets in Europe on social networks’.
The Hospital de Emergencias Enfermera Isabel Zendal (here) is a massive and brand-new hospital in Madrid with 1,000 beds, built hastily as the Covid pandemic hit Spain. Público says that 170 million euros have been lavished on the centre, which currently has just 91 patients all located in just one of the three buildings that make up the hospital.
Free wifi in the Andalusian hospitals? Miguel Charisteas warns about the private health schemes in the Junta de Andalucía on YouTube here.
Much attention this week on the activities of the PSOE deputy, or rather, ex-deputy, for Las Palmas Juan Bernardo Fuentes who is accused (‘falsely,’ he says) of participating in merry parties with prostitutes, cocaine, Viagra and whisky. Together with several accomplices, including a general in the Guardia Civil and a senior businessman from Tenerife, the ex-deputy is alleged to have accepted bribes from promoters. News video and story at La Sexta here. ‘The WhatsApp of the PSOE deputy choosing prostitutes: "Pass me the catalogue"’ says El Español here. It gets worse, if we are to believe CadenaSer here. The PP hope to bring down the government with this scandal: ‘It’s the tip of an iceberg’, they say.
Football Leaks, as it’s called, is the alleged list of 6.2 million euros in payments by the Barcelona Football Club to the vice-president of the referee’s club between 2001 and 2017 as described in detail at InfoLibre here. From El País in English here: ‘FC Barcelona received the profile of match officials before each domestic fixture. Witnesses tell prosecutors that a company belonging to ex-vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees, José María Enríquez Negreira, would deliver a report and a DVD ahead of Barça and Barça B games’.
The 'WhatsApp' messages of the Operation Kitchen (explained in English here), the improper search for any dirt by the leadership of the Ministry of the Interior of the Rajoy era against Podemos and the independence movement. Hundreds of messages from senior members of the ministry and police commanders between 2015 and 2019 reveal the ministry's unusual strategy’. The strategy, says the article, was to attack the rival politicians with stories, often false ones, which were leaked to the media. The minister at the time, Jorge Fernández Díaz (the one who gave a police gold medal to Nuestra Señora María Santísima del Amor back in 2014) is under investigation by the anti-corruption court and could face fifteen years prison. El País reports here. The illegal police intelligence operation to bury incriminating evidence in the twinned Gürtel Inquiry clearly benefited the Partido Popular admits the prosecutor, but no other leading figure from that time (such as Mariano Rajoy or María Dolores de Cospedal) is under investigation in the matter says EPE here.
The traffic police may not fine you (it’s 200€) for not having an ITV on a vehicle that is parked, says the courts. Confilegal has the details here.
Divorcionetas (quickee divorces) are small vans in some cities offering the paperwork for a divorce for just 150€ per person (two of you, right?). The Spanish Association of Family Lawyers think it’s all a bit iffy says elDiario.es here.
Público says that La Cope (a right-wing radio run by the Conferencia Episcopal) runs the photograph of the President of Spain returning from his trip to Kiev saying that he should have either taken the train or driven there – (like any other president does?). Maybe, says one of the comments wittily, he should have gone with Blablacar.
Following from last week’s editorial about media manipulation, here’s elDiario.es with ‘Feijóo makes complaints against the RTVE (state TV and radio) while the regional television channels in the hands of the PP redouble their manipulation. The PP targets the public radio and television, despite the fact that its Board of Directors has a large representation of conservatives, as agreed with the Government, while the workers of Televisión de Galicia denounce political 'mobbing' or Díaz Ayuso changes the law to control Telemadrid outside of the regional government’. The article also considers that Canal Sur in Andalucía is also highly biased in its news reporting. On the same subject, here’s an article at The Corner saying that the left-wing media lie and manipulate just as hard as the right-wing do. It says of this kind of reporting ‘…Thus, they are losing credibility at the drop of a hat and in the service of nothing. They lose and so do the citizens, who need reliable, documented, accurate and unbiased information’. By reading this.
Begoña Gómez, the wife of Pedro Sánchez, a person who works outside of politics at the Complutense University in Madrid (and has two children), is suing Pilar Baselga for her remarks on a far-right TV station called Distrito TV for claiming that ‘Begoña was born Begoño’ and is a transsexual, who is also involved in the world of narco-trafficking. Silly maybe, but there are always some people who drink this stuff up. La Vanguardia brings us the story.
An international network to destabilise governments, working together with OKDiario, with Pandemia Digital on YouTube here (1h).
An investigative journalist called Julián Macías writes about the Israeli company "Team Jorge" which, he says ‘completes the puzzle of the international hate and lies against democracy’, with:
- Hacking devices, creating scandals and fakes
- Dissemination with bots and media
- Electoral fraud campaigns
And he asks ‘What is the link with OkDiario and VOX?’. Interesting stuff.
Some homework about the PP, at their ‘non-official page’ here.
There are a lot of hunters in Spain, holding in 2020 a total of 678,000 licences, and maybe a few more without (and most of them with their hunting dogs) – indeed, 85% of the entire country is a coto de caza, a hunting reserve. That small square with the diagonal black and white that one sees on walks – that’s a sign for a coto de caza, usually private, and not necessarily held by the same person who owns the land.
Why fly a flag over your house? Nostalgia, or some current international sporting event, or from nationalist feelings… Maybe just because there are too many foreigners in the neighbourhood, who knows? From Sur in English here, ‘A truce is reached over Spanish flags on luxury homes at El Soto de Marbella urbanisation in Ojén on the Costa del Sol. The community of owners, the majority foreigners, had threatened to take several families to court for flying Spain's national flag on their balconies, citing aesthetic reasons’. It appears that the flag-owners have agreed to move their flags to a less evident position.
La Vanguardia has a list of the best cities to enjoy free tapas with your drinks. Understandably, there are great tapas in Spain, but few places are giving them out free (much beyond a few peanuts). León and Granada are the places for the best free nibbles.
A video about the AVE (in English) on YouTube here. ‘Spain has a massive high speed railway system, and it has some of the most unique features of any railway in the world. So come along with us and learn all about this marvel of engineering!’
For daily musings about Spain, check in with Colin Davies at Thoughts from Galicia. Colin lives in Pontevedra (Galicia) and is always full of useful and sometimes acerbic comments about life in España.
Following on from last week’s item about 90% of the Monte de El Pardo being a private Royal hunting-preserve, a reader sends this: ‘For families: Upgrade your usual family bonding with a trip to El Pardo – a lesser-known royal palace located on the outskirts of the city. The palace was once home to the Habsburgs, the Bourbons, and Francisco Franco, so it has a unique mix of architectural styles and periods of Spanish history’. Es.Madrid here.
From Eye on Spain here, an interesting article on ‘Most Recommended Walks in Spain’.
The excellent Radio Tarifa with La Tarara on YouTube here. A little more authentic? Here’s Orquestra Chekara (something on them here), which was a joint Moroccan/Spanish group, with La Tarara – Bent Bladi.