In the province of Tarragona there is a total of 7,354 homes of large owners that are empty. This figure represents almost 20% of the total for Catalonia, where the number of uninhabited flats amounts to 35,700. Most of these belong to banking entities and investment funds such as Sareb (6,731), BBVA (3,571), Divarian (3,477), Building Center (2,884), Bankia (2,546), Aliseda Inmobiliaria (2,172), Banco Santander (1,684 ), Unnin (944), Gramina Homes (908), and Coral Homes (846). An x-ray in relation to the owners that follows the same line in the counties of Tarragona, where municipalities such as Tarragona lead the list of empty flats of large owners, with 725; Reus, with 446; El Vendrell, with 390; Deltebre, with 317; Calafell, with 299; Tortosa, with 297; Sant Carles de la Ràpita, with 296; Amposta, with 266; Mont-roig del Camp, with 261 and Cambrils, with 251. Thus, the majority holders in Tarragona are Divarian (87), Gramina Homes (81) and Sareb (73), in the same way as in Reus they are Divarian (66 ), Bankia (61) and Gramina Homes (46) the main large owners – legal entities with more than 10 homes and individuals with more than 15 – who have empty flats, that is, without a qualifying title for two years or more.
These figures largely reflect the reality of “houses without people and people without a home”, since there is a clear housing deficit that, in some cases, leads those who suffer from it to occupy a home illegally. In this sense, the director of the UNESCO Chair of Habitatge of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Dr. Héctor Simón, aware of the need to put these houses on the market through social rental, assures that the number of empty flats of large owners does not represent the entire problem. “Surely there are many more empty homes that do not appear in the Registry of Built Habitats of the Generalitat de Catalunya, such as those that are in the hands of small holders,” he points out. In this sense, Simón comments that “it is difficult to have real knowledge of empty flats if a census is not carried out, so that through water consumption, census and on-site visits you can know the exact number of dwellings uninhabited”. Thus, he adds, “one way or another can be activated to put them on the market.”
Regarding these mechanisms, the director of the Càtedra d’Habitatge of the URV explains that “from the Càtedra we are in favor of the administration promoting positive incentives for small owners, such as giving aid for the rehabilitation of a home with the condition of that in five or ten years it becomes part of a social rental pool». In the same way, and in relation to the large holders, Simón considers it essential that the administrations reach agreements with them so that they put the empty homes on the official protection market, “also through positive incentives.” The expert understands that “as a last resort” negative incentives are applied, such as economic sanctions, to those owners who have uninhabited properties and do not give them an exit, but he reinforces his idea by ensuring that the effectiveness of these punitive channels “is not proven” .
For her part, the Councilor for Habitatge of the Tarragona City Council, Eva Miguel (CUP), explains that “we have an agreement with the Agència Catalana de l’Habitatge (ACH) that sets us an objective of locating up to 50 empty properties and activating them with policies from the council. In this sense, Miguel assures that we have already detected 34 homes that are likely to be uninhabited, which represents 68% of the final goal of 50. «What we will try to do is find mechanisms to mobilize these homes and what the Local Plan contemplates d’Habitatge de Tarragona for this is to generate negotiating tables, “says the mayor.
Along these lines, he states that “in a first phase we will be proactive when it comes to locating large owners, giving them all the information about aid and negotiating in a friendly way to dispose of empty properties”, while recalling that ” We also have legal mechanisms to activate these floors.” Thus, he points out that “if the first phase of negotiation with the large holders does not work, we have coercive tools, but they are more complicated because they end up in judicial referrals whose resolution occurs in the long term.”
In the same way, the Councilor for the Economy, Coneixement i Habitatge of the Reus City Council, Teresa Pallarès, explains that through the same agreement with the ACH “we recognized more than 70 empty homes of large owners and of these we have opened 40 disciplinary proceedings” . She says that they sent a letter to the large holders informing them of the situation with those properties and advising them that it had to be regularized “in compliance with a social function.” However, and despite Pallarès assuring that at any time he can go ahead with the files, “which allow us to impose sanctions of between 90,000 and 900,000 euros”, he says that there is a point of dialogue and negotiation to put the houses in the social market. “We will sanction if necessary, but first we opt for agreement channels that we think are more productive,” concludes the mayor of Reus, who makes herself available to the owners.