In Spain, many municipalities are facing the challenge of depopulation, as their populations' age and young people leave for bigger cities in search of better opportunities. This trend is exacerbating problems of overcrowding and livability in urban centres.
To combat this issue, some towns are offering unique incentives to attract new residents to their communities and existing ones to stay. These measures may include the provision of land in exchange for agricultural work, free housing, or even the gift of bread and cheese for newborns.
According to data from the Padron Continuo (continuous census), that is published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), there are nearly 5,000 towns in Spain with populations of fewer than 1,000 people, and 84 percent of the municipalities in the interior of the peninsula with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants (known as "Empty Spain") have seen a decline of over 58,000 residents in the last five years.
Despite the challenges posed by depopulation, there are many advantages to living in small towns. Below are just a few incentives being offered in Spanish regions.
Andalucia: Free land
In Vejer de la Frontera, a municipality in the Cádiz province in Andalusia, a unique land exploitation system called "Hazas de la suerte" has been in place since 1288. King Sancho IV initiated the system by granting communal lands to encourage settlement in the area.
Annually, in conjunction with the Christmas Lottery draw, Vejer de la Frontera residents who were born in the municipality or have resided there for more than two decades enter a lottery for an opportunity to win one of 232 work plots, or "hazas". If selected, winners can utilise the plots for four years, earning roughly 6,000 euros over that period of time.
Aragon: 1,400 euros, bread and cheese
In Utrillas, a small town located in the province of Teruel, 23 lucky parents who welcomed their newborns in 2022 were granted a generous gift of a cheque worth 1,400 euros, a kilogram of delicious bread and some artisanal cheese. This traditional custom implies that newborns come into the world with something precious in their arms.
Meanwhile, in the picturesque Somontano region, nestled in the province of Huesca, several municipalities have put together a thoughtful welcome kit for new residents. This package includes a keyring to their new home, a calendar showcasing local festivities, a beautiful album to treasure their first-year memories, a voucher for guided tours of the region, and even a guide on how to make a video presentation of their precious bundle of joy. This warm gesture is a testament to the hospitality and generosity of the people of this charming area.
Asturias: Up to €1000 in tax deductions and €3000 for each child born
Residents living in 53 councils that are at risk of depopulation in Asturias, can receive tax deductions of up to one thousand euros for various purposes. These deductions are available for rent, as well as for acquiring and renovating housing, establishing self-employment ventures in rural areas, or covering expenses related to nursery schools.
Furthermore, if you are fortunate enough to live in the municipality of Ponga, you could also receive 3,000 if you are a couple and another 3,000 euros more for each child born in the village.
Cantabria: A medication dispensing system tailored to individual needs
Cantabria has introduced a personalised medication dispensing system to enhance healthcare services for elderly patients and individuals with multiple medication needs living in rural regions.
Castilla-La Mancha: 25 percent deduction of personal income tax
Individuals who have their primary residence in sparsely populated municipalities in Castilla-La Mancha are eligible for tax deductions of up to 25 percent in the regional personal income tax section.
Additionally, a deduction of 15 percent is established for the acquisition or renovation of a primary residence and for relocation due to work-related reasons.
In addition, there is also a bonus of 15% which is offered for the purchase or renovation of a home constructed after January 1, 2021, in municipalities with fewer than 5,000 residents.
Castilla y León: Distribution of land
Every year in the town of Villabrágima in Valladolid, a communal distribution of land known as "quiñones" is conducted. This tradition dates back to the 15th century and involves providing a 2.5-hectare plot of land for life to all residents over the age of 25 in exchange for a nominal fee. The purpose is to encourage them to cultivate the land and remain in the town.
The region also offers aid to those under the age of 36 who purchase a property in one of the region’s municipalities. The municipality must have less than 10,000 inhabitants, or 3,000 if it is a maximum distance of 30 kilometres from a provincial capital.
Catalonia: Discount on building permits and half-price housing
The Torrebeses town hall in Lérida offers a 95 percent discount on construction licences to individuals under 35 years of age.
In Camarasa, also located in Lérida, 11 public plots are available for young families to purchase at a 50 percent discount.
Valencia Community: Free housing for 12 months
El Toro, a Castellón municipality with a population of 281 people, has seen an increase of 43 residents in a single year. To support families and maintain the school, the municipality provides a monthly allowance of one hundred euros for each child up to 12 years of age. Additionally, families are offered one year of free housing to help them settle in the area.
Extremadura: 3,000 euros per child and school fees
In Madrigalejo, a town located in the province of Cáceres, an amount of 3,000 euros is provided for families upon the birth or adoption of a child.
Meanwhile, in Higuera de la Llerena, situated in the province of Badajoz, the expenses related to school, personal hygiene, and customised bibs are covered for children.
Galicia: Cash for children
Families with newborn babies in January 2022 in the Ferrolterra region are eligible for financial assistance.
The aid provided is 1,000 euros for the first child, whether born, adopted, or fostered. If the child has functional diversity, an additional 2,000 euros will be granted.
For the second child, the amount of aid is 2,000 euros, and for a second child with a disability, the aid amount increases to 3,000 euros.
La Rioja: Lower rent and discount on expenses
Independent individuals under the age of 36 years, who have habitual residence in small municipalities can benefit from a 20 percent discount on their rent, electricity, and gas expenses offered by the Government of La Rioja.
Navarra: Chance to receive free housing
The Azuelo City Council, located in Navarra, has made an offer to manage the civic centre that serves as a bar and social venue.
The council has 31 registered residents, and the proposal includes an exciting incentive for the winners - a newly renovated home, given to them for free.
Basque Country: 1,000 euro discount when starting a business
The council in Álava has put forward an offer of a 1,000 euro deduction for initiating an economic activity in rural regions. Additionally, if the entrepreneur is a woman, the deduction amount increases to 1,500 euros.
Nationwide: Help to buy property
The State Plan for Access to Housing 2022-2025, included in Royal Decree 42/2022 on January 18, provides direct assistance for people under 35 years old to purchase a home in municipalities with less than 10,000 residents, with a property value not exceeding 120,000 euros. The maximum amount of aid available is 10,800 euros.
To be eligible, applicants must have an annual income of no more than 24,318 euros and a contract to purchase a home in a small municipality after January 1, 2022. Successful applicants have three months to provide proof of ownership, and the purchased property must be their primary residence for at least five years. Additionally, each autonomous community will have its own set of requirements.
And there’s more...
Rubia, Ourense, gives between 100 and 150 euros to each person who decides to move there. Olmeda de la Cuesta, Cuenca, auctions land between 200 and 3,000 euros to build houses in less than three years. Griegos, Teruel, gives three months of free rent and after this, 225 euros per month, with a bonus of 50 euros for each child of school age and A Xesta, Pontevedra, offers rentals from 100 euros.
So there you go! Towns and villages up and down the country are falling over themselves to help fight depopulation with a multitude of incentives on offer. If you're considering moving to Spain and unsure of the region you'd like to settle in, it's worth checking if any towns or villages on your list offer incentives for new residents.