The Catalan government has approved a draft bill on taxing financial institutions in the region for leaving housing they own empty for more than two years.
The bill will be sent to the regional assembly for approval before the summer and will take effect from the start of next year. The levy will range from 850 to 1,650 euros a year per house and will affect 15,000 housing units in 70 municipalities in the region.
The hundreds of thousands of empty homes across Madrid has spawned a black market for cheap housing in which groups illegally break into, and then let, repossessed properties.
Almost all the cases involving the properties, most of which now belong to Spanish banks, are identical, said Vicente Pérez, from a residents group, the Federación Regional de Asociaciones de Vecinos de Madrid.
While prices vary greatly, it generally costs from €1,000 (£830) to €2,000 to "buy" a repossessed property, El País reports. Those who cannot afford the fee can instead choose to rent for a few hundred euros a month. The price often includes electricity, gas and water, and sometimes even heating.
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