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Social Housing in Europe


Brussels, 27 March 2010 | Published in Research

What is social housing?

The right to housing is guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution. Social housing in Spain consists of the so-called Vivienda de Proteccion Publica (publicly protected housing). It is characterized by a peculiarity compared to social housing models in most EU countries, in that it is housing provided almost entirely for owner-occupation. Only a small proportion of this housing, currently on the increase, is offered for rent.

The main characteristic of protected housing is that construction, renovation and buying are subsidized by the State through reduced interest loans to providers. In exchange for this, dwellings complying with a number of conditions concerning size and quality are sold or let at prices below market to people with revenues below certain income ceilings.

The entire home-ownership sector represents 85% of the total housing stock in Spain, while the rental sector is the smallest in Europe, corresponding to 11% of the total housing stock, and it is concentrated quite exclusively in few big cities such as Barcelona and Madrid. Just about 2% of the stock is social rental housing.

Who provides social housing?

Public support for protected housing is dwelling-based, and open to all sorts of providers: public developers, commercial developers as well as not for profit organisations and cooperatives, as well as individuals who alone or collectively want to buy or rehabilitate a home.

How is social housing financed?

Protected housing is mainly financed through funding from the National Housing Plan and to a lesser extent from regional plans as well as borrowing from private credit institutions. The state stipulates agreements with credit institutions, which commitment to providing loans at favourable conditions. Besides access to favourable loans, protected housing in some cases can also benefit from direct public aid in form of grants or subsidisation of loans.

Who can access social housing?

On the basis of income distribution, depending on the type of VPO, broadly speaking over 80% of households virtually has access to this type of housing. The person who buys / is allocated / builds for personal use the dwelling: must not own or have a permanent right to use another dwelling, must not have obtained financing from the Housing Plan over the previous 10 years, and must have an income below certain levels. Disabled people and depended persons have the priority, and the regional governments can establish other types of requirements.