From 20 November to 1 December 2006, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari, conducted a mission to Spain to examine the status of realization of the right to adequate housing, paying particular attention to aspects of gender equality and nondiscrimination.
During the course of the mission, the Special Rapporteur visited Madrid, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Almeria, El Ejido, Roquetas de Mar, Seville, Barcelona and Zaragoza. Throughout his visit, the Special Rapporteur met with high level representatives from the State, autonomous regions and local authorities. He also met with a large number of representatives of civil society, including social movements, non-governmental organizations, academics, independent human right investigators, women’s groups and representatives of minorities, and received testimonies from people directly affected by the shortcomings in the implementation of the human right to adequate housing.
On the last day of his mission, the Special Rapporteur shared his preliminary observations with the Central authorities. The Special Rapporteur acknowledged the efforts that have been made by the Spanish authorities at all levels to address issues related to the realization of the right to adequate housing. He welcomed the creation of a Ministry of housing at State level and the subsequent efforts deployed by this Ministry to ensure decentralized responsibilities for housing and land within different levels of government. He also welcomed a number of positive developments on housing and land policies at regional and local levels, such as those in the Basque and Catalan regions.
The Special Rapporteur noted with satisfaction that Spain has legal provisions to protect the right to adequate housing, in particular the constitutional provisions recognizing the right to adequate housing. Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution states: "All Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing. The public authorities shall promote the necessary conditions and establish appropriate standards in order to make this right effective, regulating land use in accordance with the general interest in order to prevent speculation. The community shall have a share in the benefits accruing from the town-planning policies of public bodies". The Special Rapporteur also welcomed progress made in developing and submitting draft legislations with regard to the implementation of the right to adequate housing and land. Nevertheless, he considered that these legislations and policies might prove ineffective as long as speculation continues to drive urban policies and planning and as long as public policy does not address the consequences of a totally unregulated market.
At the end of his mission, the Special Rapporteur has come to the conclusion that Spain is facing a housing crisis due to several factors.
Whether in terms of renting or purchasing houses, affordability is a major problem faced by a vast number of people living in Spain. The Special Rapporteur notes that a large proportion of people is paying a high percentage of their income on mortgages. The Special Rapporteur received a number of testimonies from persons that are defaulting their payments because of the increases. The situation does not seem to be sustainable in the long-term, and the Special Rapporteur fears that more people will experience payment problems in the future, affecting their right to adequate housing.
Spain seriously lacks public housing. The current housing programmes do not address the n