Skyrocketing rents in South Tenerife squeeze tourism workers into a tight spot

Workers in the tourism industry are resorting to sleeping in caravans, vans, and substandard accommodations due to high rents in South Tenerife; both employers and trade unions are demanding "urgent solutions" to prevent a potential "tourism crisis."

In South Tenerife, rental prices have soared to such extremes that the situation is now being described as a “social emergency.” This crisis is vividly illustrated by the living conditions of many workers, who are compelled to sleep in cars, caravans, and vans, or in makeshift, substandard housing. Others are forced to reside far from their workplaces, leading to increased reliance on transportation and resulting traffic congestions.

Hotel business owners and the main trade union in the hospitality industry are urgently calling for solutions to avert a “tourist collapse,” a concern echoed by Manuel Fitas, the general secretary of Sindicalistas de Base. The industry’s employer association has also raised an alarm, noting that some establishments have had to close sections due to staffing shortages, impacting their ability to provide services.

Both groups have recently conveyed their significant concerns to the Canary Islands Federation of Municipalities (Fecam) about the unaffordable property prices near tourist centers. Areas such as Granadilla de Abona, Arona, Adeje, Guía de Isora, and San Miguel de Abona are facing the highest demand, particularly appealing to large, often foreign, investors interested in holiday rentals. Real estate experts see no imminent relief in rental prices as demand continues to outpace supply.

Holiday Homes in South Tenerife

Skyrocketing rents in South Tenerife squeeze tourism workers into a tight spot

There are approximately 200,000 holiday homes in the archipelago, in stark contrast to the 325,000 regulated tourist accommodations in hotels and apartments. The lack of urban planning regulations for tourist housing has led to a significant increase in tourist rentals. This change has blurred the lines between residential areas in the midlands, which were historically more affordable, and holiday zones closer to the coast.

Jessica de León, the Canary Islands Government’s tourism councillor, highlighted the uncontrolled growth of holiday rentals and its inevitable impact on residents, who face steep rental prices in some areas.

On 26 November, the Canary Islands government concluded a public consultation on the future Sustainable Development Law, intended to regulate tourist housing use, receiving over 5,400 submissions. The next step is drafting the law for submission to the Canary Islands Parliament by the end of January, initiating the legislative process.

Additionally, the Canary Islands lead in demand for social housing among Spanish autonomous communities. The “practically nil” construction of social housing over the past 20 years is a significant factor, according to real estate professionals. While the 2008 real estate crash slowed private construction, they argue that public housing development should not have followed suit.

Tenerife’s builders describe the housing shortage in the south as “alarming,” urging the Canary Islands government to implement a clear housing policy and local councils to expedite building permits. One proposed solution is for councils with consolidated residential land to facilitate housing projects that entrepreneurs can rent to workers at reasonable prices.

Sindicalistas de Base points out the need for the willingness of administrations to support housing construction, given the availability of land and workers with stable employment. The main trade union in the hotel and catering industry warns of a “perfect storm” in the rental market, leading to worker resignations and increased absenteeism due to physical and mental stress, particularly among housekeepers.

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