While they are busy building enough new flats around Madrid to house the remaining few young professionals that still haven’t fled to the city from the economically depressed provinces, there are a remarkable number of empty flats here in the centre of the city. Half the shutters in the 6 floor building opposite ours are permanently down – a sure sign of an empty home – and no-one has lived next to, or below us, for as long as we have been here. There are a vast number of unoccupied flats in the centre of Madrid, a problem that is reflected in large cities all over Spain.
The local Catalan Government had decided to do something about the problem, and intends to charge the owners of such premises 9 Euros for every day that their flat remains empty (Spanish article in El Pais). The idea is to stimulate a completely stagnant rental market. I remember standing in queues of up to 40 people to see flats for rent in Madrid 6 years ago, and I doubt the situation has changed. Either you were Spanish and had a decent wage slip to show potential landlords, or you could forget it.