The Tenure Imbalance in Spain: The Need for Social Housing Policy

Urban Studies, Vol. 39, No. 2, 283–295

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Date Published 2002
Primary Author Montserrat Pareja Eastaway and Ignacio San Marton Varo
Other Authors
Theme Rental Housing
Country Spain


Spain is usually chosen as an example of an unbalanced picture among tenures. The owner-occupied sector has been growing since the 1950s while the rental sector has become smaller. Surprisingly, other European countries are at present following the same pattern, but mostly we also see an important function for social housing. Taking into account that public housing, built by public developers, is almost negligible and that government housing policy programes basically stimulate ownership, the ‘social housing’ concept lacks an adequate de?finition in Spanish housing policy. In this sense, the encouragement of the rental sector through public policy should provide an alternative for low-income families. Despite different cultural housing backgrounds, the emergence of a reliable rental sector in Spain appears to be the most promising strategy for solving current housing problems. The aim of the paper is twofold. On the one hand, it analyzes the evolution of the rental sector through recent decades, stressing how different central government regulations have affected the tenure structure in Spain. On the other, it considers the rental sector as a potential instrument for authorities to meet the housing needs of low-income families. Housing policy still plays a crucial role in offering the opportunity for certain groups to access a suitable house. What can be called the ‘European shift’ to the market can cause irreparable damage to those families that have bene?fited from former, direct or indirect, public means.

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