The Constitutional Court (TC) has endorsed the capacity of the Basque Government and municipalities to proceed to the forced expropriation of homes that remain uninhabited for more than two years without unjustified cause and are located in areas where there is a proven demand from people who need public or social housing. The institutions will have the power to make them available to the social rental market when there is a demand in the areas where they are located.
"This is not going to assume that the Government or the municipalities are going to proceed with an expropriatory wave," the Basque housing councilor, socialist Iñaki Arriola, wanted to clarify. The pronouncement of the highest court gives the green light to decree the forced rental of those homes that are unused for a prolonged period of time and are located in areas where the demand for social housing is high. It is, said Arriola, that "there is a compensation between the incentive policies of rental housing and punitive measures in the case that a good use of a property such as housing is not made".
The last census of empty and uninhabited houses of Euskadi will be made public tomorrow by the councilor himself, who today has declined to say which is the real estate park in disuse in this autonomous community. The previous report, with data for 2015, accounts for 86,325 empty dwellings (8.3% of all Basque households). Of these, almost a third (32%) are used as seasonal housing and the remaining 68% are classified as "uninhabited". Of the 58,697 unoccupied homes, more than half (35,647) were without an offer, that is, they were not for sale or offered for rent.
It will not be considered an unoccupied dwelling when it is a second residence and in the cases of home relocations for work, health, dependency and social emergency reasons that justify being vacated, Arriola said. Before declaring an unoccupied dwelling, the institutions must open a file, give a hearing to the owners and later determine if it complies with the requirements of the law so that a canon, its forced rent or temporary expropriation can be applied.
The Government of the PP appealed in 2016 before the Constitutional Basque Housing Law to consider that several of its precepts exceeded the autonomic powers and went into land reserved to the State. The Basque legislation, which establishes the subjective right to dispose of a home, was approved in June 2015 on the initiative of the PSE and obtained the support of EH Bildu and UPyD. The PNV and the PP voted against.
The last census figure in 58,697 existing uninhabited houses in Euskadi
The appeal of the Executive of Rajoy was based on the fact that the Basque legislation imposes a new regulation of the right of property on the housing because it includes the duty to inhabit it. The State Advocacy challenged 13 articles and several sections, most referring to the definition of uninhabited housing and to the action tools for those households that are not occupied and, therefore, do not fulfill the social function established by law.
Councilor Arriola has ensured that the TC validates "without any restriction" the ability of Basque institutions to act on unoccupied dwellings that "do not fulfill a social function". The regulations give the Basque Government and municipalities the ability to determine when a house is uninhabited and the instruments "to encourage their occupation or penalize their lack of use."
The Minister of Housing has valued positively the ruling that, in his opinion, allows the "full competence" of Euskadi to regulate this area with all legal security. However, the court considers the article in which the forced expropriation of the temporary use of dwellings subject to eviction proceedings for foreclosure that are driven by financial institutions, their real estate subsidiaries and asset management entities is unconstitutional.