In Spain more than 3.4m homes lie vacant, in excess of 2m homes are empty in each of France and Italy, 1.8m in Germany and more than 700,000 in the UK. In Portugal there are 735,000 vacant properties – a 35% increase since 2001. An estimated 300,000 lie empty in Greece and 400,000 in Ireland. There are also a large numbers of vacant homes in several other countries, according to information collated by the Guardian.
Many of the homes are in vast holiday resorts built in the feverish housing boom in the run up to the 2007-08 financial crisis – and have never been occupied. Hundreds of thousands of half-built homes have been bulldozed in an attempt to shore up the prices of existing properties. The Irish government has begun demolishing 40 housing estates built during the boom but still empty. It is working out how to deal with a further 1,300 unfinished developments, and Deutsche Bank has warned that it will take 43 years to fill the oversupply of empty homes in Ireland at the current low population growth rate.
"Homes are built for people to live in, if they're not being lived in then something has gone seriously wrong with the housing market." said David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes charity, which campaigns for vacant homes to be made available for those who need housing. He added that policymakers urgently needed to tackle the issue of wealthy buyers using houses as "investment vehicles" – not homes.
Gavin Smart, director of policy at the UK Chartered Institute of Housing, said a growing problem was rich investors "buying to leave" and hoping to profit from rising property prices. Smart said there was growing evidence of the practice in "rich parts of London, other areas of the country … probably all over Europe". The prices of prime London property – defined as homes that cost more than £1,000 per sq ft – are now 27% above their 2007 peak, according to estate agent Savills. The Guardian revealed that a third of the mansions on the most expensive stretch of London's "Billionaires Row" are empty, including some that have fallen into ruin after standing vacant for a quarter of a century.
Freek Spinnewijn, director of FEANTSA, an umbrella organisation of homelessness bodies across Europe, said it was a scandal that so many homes have been allowed to lie empty "Governments should do as much as possible to put empty homes on the market. The problem of homelessness is getting worse across the whole of the European Union. The best way to resolve it is to put empty homes on the market."
SOYMB agrees there is something seriously wrong with capitalism where it is profits and not needs that decide who gets a home. But the simplistic solutions means undermining capitalism and that will not do at all!
Most of Europe's empty homes are in Spain, which saw the biggest construction boom in the mid-2000s fed largely by Britons and Germans buying homes in the sun. The number of empty homes has risen by more than 10% in the past decade. The Spanish government estimates that an additional 500,000 part-built homes have been abandoned by construction companies across the country. During the housing boom, which saw prices rise by 44% between 2004-08, Spanish builders knocked up new homes at a rate of more than 800,000 a year. In some resorts more than a third of homes are still empty five years after the peak of the financial crisis. The Spanish census suggests that more than 7,000 of the 20,000 homes in Torre-Pacheco, a holiday region between Murcia and the coast are empty. More than 18% of homes in Galicia, on the north-west Spanish coast, and La Rioja, near Pamplona, are vacant. The city council of Terrassa, to the north of Barcelona, has written to banks holding more than 5,000 homes which had defaulted on mortage payments demanded they take "all possible actions to find tenants" or hand the homes over to the council to use for social housing.
María José Aldanas of Spanish housing and homelessness association Provivienda said: "Spain is suffering from high numbers of repossessions and evictions, so we have reached a point where we have too many people without a home and many homes without people."
So now lets finally put to rest that it is immigrants who have caused the shortage of housing. If you are homeless or unable to climb the property ladder is is not a Roma migrant or Somali political refugee to blame but the logic and economic laws of capitalism.