“I fear that we are going to get used to the fact that a van becomes the housing alternative for many people,” explains the social worker and coordinator of the Base 25 insular housing program, Alejandra Hernández, who develops caritas and who finances the Council of Tenerife. A program that tries to deal with a growing problem that, perhaps, is becoming bigger than most perceive, taking into account that it is timidly beginning to creep into political speeches, a reality that has been frequent in conversations with friends and family for a long time.
The objective of this program is to advise and accompany families who are at risk of losing their sole and habitual home, whether due to foreclosure, evictions due to non-payment of rent or precarious evictions: when there is no documentation proving ownership of the home, something not too uncommon in the Canary Islands and in areas where the transmission of property has traditionally been informal, from parents to children and from grandparents to grandchildren.
And the reality is that their work is increasing and the solutions within their reach, such as the search for alternative housing for families who are evicted, are becoming more and more complicated. “It’s a titanic struggle,” she explains. “Before, from the highway down it was a vacation home, with the conditions it has, and from the highway up, there was residential housing at affordable prices. This has changed. Now everything is on vacation”, underlines the coordinator, who warns that “this is going to get very ugly”. From the highway up, in the middle areas, there was social relief from evictions or loss of rents that occurred from the highway down.
Although years ago, these situations affected people with certain characteristics and incomes, mainly the lowest, now there is a generalization of the phenomenon of difficulties in maintaining rental housing or finding an alternative. “With homes starting at 700 euros a month, the problem is no longer for people with low incomes, but also affects the middle classes. There are those who would have to allocate 80% of their income to rent, ”he warns. But it is that, people with income of 1,500 or 1,600 euros must allocate 50% of them to live without sharing.
Therefore, it is no longer a problem for low-income people, but rather the real risk of losing their home has ceased to be understood by middle-income people and is spreading like a plague that affects low- and medium-income people, who, moreover, face harsh conditions for renting a house, with requirements that are increasingly difficult to meet.
But the risk of being left without a housing alternative is not only widespread among social classes, but also geographically, since the areas around the tourist areas are increasingly in demand and the supply is decreasing, because it is used for vacations, while public housing is not being built. Everything has become a holiday home, compared to what a few years ago also divided, geographically, the motorway itself, which distinguished between residential and holiday uses.
So much so that in the first six months of the year, Base 25 has served 453 homes with a total of 1,170 inhabitants. By population, Santa Cruz and La Laguna should be in the top positions and, however, Arona is the municipality that takes the cake, with 98 attentions from the Cáritas team.
In second place is La Laguna, with 79; Granadilla is third, with 75, and Santa Cruz, in fourth place, with 67. Puerto de la Cruz follows with 43.
In other words, the South is at levels of the most populated areas of the Island, a situation that is explained by the fact that the price of rents in the affected municipalities, be it Arona, Granadilla de Abona, Adeje or San Miguel de Abona, has escalated in such a way that wages are insufficient to cope with the growth in rents, beyond the enormous difficulty of finding shortages due to the generalization of seasonal contracts and vacation rentals.
“In the South we see how the situation worsens year after year,” says Alejandra Hernández, who explains that “in Arona and Granadilla it has deteriorated a lot in the last four years, affecting more normalized profiles, both due to the rise in rental prices, ignoring the laws themselves, as well as the generalization of the phenomenon of vacation rentals or seasonal rentals.” Regarding the profile, there is a clear impact on women who support single-parent families. They make up 40% of all households that have been served by the program, due to their low income and the number of people they have in charge, beyond how difficult it is for them to improve their income.
“Women are the ones who tend to take care of the children, it is a single person who has to care for others and who cannot improve their income because they have no options to reconcile: public day care centers are scarce and public transport connections in the south are very bad”, he explains, which does not make it easier to access these jobs, which could improve their socioeconomic situation.
“When we started six years ago, in the event of eviction or the person losing their habitual residence, there were rentals available. Now it is impossible and it is going to get worse”, indicates Alejandra Hernández.