Can a foreigner qualify for a “vivienda protegida”?

The short answer: yes, any foreign citizen with a residence permit can apply for ‘protected housing’. But there is, of course, more to it than that. 

Properties categorised as Viviendas de Protección Oficial (VPO), or Viviendas Protegidas, are a form of affordable social housing in Spain. Allocating VPOs is done by drawing lots or by income level, depending on the region of Spain where they are located.

In general, to buy a house in Spain it is enough to have a Foreigners’ Identification Number (NIE). These can even be filed for from outside of Spain, though the corresponding taxes are paid in Spain. Similarly, if a mortgage is needed, the most logical thing to do is to take one out from a Spanish financial institution or from a foreign bank with Spanish presence. In some cases, however, the foreign buyer must have an account opened with a Spanish bank, as we will discuss later. 

According to data from the Basque housing service (Etxebide) published in the newspaper ‘El Correo’, 25% of the beneficiaries in 2017 in the Basque Country were foreigners due to their low income, double the figure for 2012. The Basque registration system uses a scale, which gives more points to larger families with lower incomes regardless of nationality. Thus, many large foreign families easily pass the 11,000 euro cut-off point to be able to apply for protected housing. Interestingly, the Basque housing service notes that most applications for protected housing by foreigners are for rent.

But how do I know if I qualify? After reviewing several different region’s criteria, the common requirements for access to subsidised housing:

  • To be of legal age.
  • Be registered in a town or city in the autonomous community.
  • Family income low enough in relation to the Public Indicator of Multiple Effects Income (IPREM).
  • Not to own or have significant access to another property anywhere in Spain.

However, as each Autonomous Community has its own requirements, a minimum period of residence may be required, which affects less well-established foreigners. Those who have a permanent residence visa will not be entitled to get a VPO flat due to their financial status.

In short, a foreign citizen can purchase a protected home in Spain as long as they meet certain requirements.

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