The Catalan Government has today taken the first step towards initiating the expropriation of empty homes owned by large-scale landlords due to their failure to comply with the social function of property. Specifically, the Executive Council has approved the initial list of 14 Catalan municipalities where priority action will be taken as they are located in areas legally declared as having a high and accredited demand for housing.

In the next few days, the first letters will be sent out with the requirement for landlords to provide legal proof that their properties are intended as residences. If they fail to comply within one month, the Government will declare that the social function of the property has not been fulfilled and will initiate expropriation procedures, which can take up to six months. The expropriation only affects dwellings on the Register of Empty Homes and Occupied Homes without an Operating Licence (RHBO), meaning that small property owners are excluded.

This is the first time that the Catalan Government has taken advantage of all the legal tools at its disposal to initiate the process of expropriating properties due to non-fulfilment of the social function of property. The objective is to obtain housing for the most vulnerable families, mainly those registered with the Emergency Boards, in areas with the highest demand for social housing. In the first phase, action will be taken in 14 municipalities legally declared as areas with a high and accredited demand for housing.

Once the inspections have been carried out and the potential properties have been detected, the Ministry of Territory will initiate the expropriation procedures. The properties will then pass into the ownership of Incasòl, which has €5 million to finance this first phase of expropriation, allowing the potential acquisition of between 50 and 70 homes, depending on the expropriation prices.

First expropriations in early 2024

The procedure begins with a notification to the owners that they must use the property as a residence for people, with a warning that expropriation proceedings will be initiated if they fail to do so.

If they fail to comply with the demand within a period of one month, a declaration of non-compliance with the social function of the property will be issued and the procedure will be effectively initiated, with a period of three months to reach a mutual agreement on the expropriation or, failing that, to allocate the property as compulsory social housing. After this time, the expedited procedure is used for the acquisition of the property, leaving discussions on the price for a later stage. This means that the first apartments could already be in the hands of Incasòl by the beginning of 2024. They will be allocated to vulnerable families registered with the Emergency Boards of the municipalities where the properties are located, or to social programmes such as those for female victims of gender-based violence.