With continued efforts from Atlas Network partner Foro Regulación Inteligente (FRI), Spanish citizens living in Málaga, Spain, are securing improved housing rights. A common phrase in the housing industry in Spain has been, “Vuelva usted mañana” or “Come back tomorrow,” a reference to lengthy bureaucratic red tape that also affects other areas of the economy. Construction firms and architects have developed the mentality that they will often have to return multiple times to government offices in order to begin a housing project because the number of regulations imposed has greatly slowed down the process of obtaining necessary permits. Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, CEO of FRI, and his team are working to change this mentality and make housing more accessible and affordable. Over the last several months, FRI has presented many reform proposals to local policymakers—which would allow for more construction in the city and enable people to obtain housing permits in a more timely fashion—and have seen some encouraging results.
The regulations that have been in place have caused a steep rise in property prices, and the delay in building projects has created a shortage of housing availability in the city. One of the primary causes of the delay has been the lack of unification and digitization of the paperwork process for housing permits. This process is laborious and requires documents to pass through numerous people and offices. Over the last 15 years, the number of housing permits has decreased from 45,000 to 5,000 per year. The lack of permits and the delay in construction have resulted in a severe drop in the stock of new housing and a rise from 1,600 to 2,300 euros in the price per square meter of housing property. As a result of the increased prices and delays caused by these unnecessary regulations, the people of Málaga are unable to obtain affordable housing and an improved quality of life.
“This is especially crucial in a city that is growing very fast and is now thought of as ‘the new Barcelona.’ Economic policy has been extremely good in Málaga over the past several years, but for different reasons there was no progress at all in terms of promoting a more flexible set of regulations for the housing industry. However, we must acknowledge that change is finally underway and there has been more progress in the last six months than in the previous six years!” highlights Sánchez de la Cruz.
The team at FRI has made encouraging progress in reforming these processes, primarily through influencing public opinion through the media and meeting with local policy makers and politicians from the governing party. Through these efforts, FRI is beginning to see real change on behalf of the people. Most importantly, the local government has listened to the pleas and has recognized the need for reform. The government has begun to combine and digitize paperwork, decreasing the need for in-person meetings and allowing a 30–40 day process to become a 2–3 day process. FRI also has seen the government begin to privatize public land in order to make it available for new construction. With this land availability, construction companies will be able to build more homes at more affordable prices.
FRI also seeks partnerships with other local organizations, which are currently dealing with their own local governments on housing reform, to offer support and advice. The partners at Foro Regulación Inteligente have been working tirelessly to create efficiency and affordability for the people of Málaga and their housing situation. Sánchez de la Cruz and his team are seeing incredible success while they continue to work for further improvements in the coming months.