IN MADRID – Located in the Tramuntana mountains, Fornalutx is famous for being one of the most beautiful towns in Majorca But, like many others on the island, it is suffering from rising real estate prices that are driving out local people and affecting businesses.
The British, Germans and Spaniards, who have second homes in the small town of just over 600 inhabitants, often rent them at prices higher than those of the local population.
Young people cannot pay rent or buy houses so they often have to leave and local businesses suffer as tourists stay in the villas and ignore the restaurants and bars.
Fornalutx is typical of other “ghost towns” in Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera, where buyers buy properties but do not live in them.
In an attempt to stop the exodus of islanders, officials want to ask the European Union grant the Balearic Islands a special exception to limit the purchase of homes by non-residents.
Juan Pedro Yllanes, vice president of the Balearic Islands, said the European Court of Justice should grant a “Balearic exception” due to the “special circumstances” of the archipelago.
“It is not about prohibiting the entry of foreigners, but about preventing non-residents from buying homes and making it impossible for young people on the islands to be able to afford to rent a home,” he said. Yo.
Yllanes wants to enlist the support of Spain’s left-wing coalition government to put pressure on the European Union, which has the final say.
Brussels has a duty to defend the principle of free movement of goods and people throughout the bloc, so it could block the initiative, but similar exceptions have been made, especially in Finland, Croatia and Canada.
Back in Fornalutx, Nick Guthrie, a retired BBC journalist who owns a house in the town, said islanders were fed up with second home owners renting out their villas or flats, putting property prices out of reach. of the local population.
He said the rampant speculation was symbolic of the fact that the islands had been overrun by visitors.
“The islanders are tired of people drowning. In 2019, 14 million people came to Mallorca. The flights landed at Palma airport with an interval of 40 seconds between planes,” he said. Yo.
“They also want to end all drunken tourism in Magaluf and other places and raise standards. Furthermore, rising prices mean that local people cannot afford to get their own places to live because people buy places and rent them. “The people who stay in these houses don’t go to local restaurants, so it hurts local businesses.”
Anna Nicholas, a British novelist based in Mallorca, has just published a police thriller fallen butterfly based on the island.
“It is imperative that Mallorca finds a sustainable model for the future that seeks to improve the current tourist offer instead of expanding it,” he stated. Yo.
“Limiting the number of properties and imposing restrictions on the number of large foreign investors who buy swaths of properties which they then renovate and sell at exorbitant prices would be a first step. “They destabilize the entire real estate market.”
Nicholas doubts Brussels will approve the plan to restrict non-resident buyers.
He added: “Restrictions on non-resident buyers are controversial and would be difficult to implement under EU law, although countries such as Finland and Croatia have achieved this.”
The Balearic Islands want to follow the example of Canada, which earlier this month introduced a two-year ban on property purchases by non-residents, with exceptions for immigrants and legal residents.
Yllanes said the EU has recognized areas of cultural importance or natural beauty in the Alps that should be protected from “excessive external pressure.”
Another area to which the EU has granted special treatment is Aland Islands in Finlandwhere there are limits on the purchase of second homes.
In Croatia, EU citizens must be residents for 10 years before they are allowed to buy agricultural land.
The Balearic Islands government wants Madrid to declare the islands a “stressed zone,” which is defined as a place where rent or the cost of a mortgage exceeds 30 percent of the median local income.
Palma de Mallorca is among the most expensive places to buy in Spain with average prices of €2,578 (£2,257) per square meter this year, according to estate agency Tinsa. In Spain, average home prices are measured in square meters. Barcelona is the most expensive place to live with properties at €3,558 (£3,115) per square metre.
The town of Deià, popular with the British since the poet Robert Graves made his home there in the 1920s, is not far from Fornalutx, in the Serra de Tramuntana, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
“Deià is one of the ghost towns because it has a high number of owners who do not live there. But there are others,” said Yllanes.
“But we want to change this and make these places living communities.”