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Spain To Offer Residency To Foreign House Buyers

CIARAN GILES

MADRID (AP) ⿿ Looking for a new place to call home? Spain is hoping to give you a little bit more than a welcome basket of baked goods if you decide to move there. In an attempt to reduce the country's bloated stock of unsold homes, the government is set to offer permanent residency to any foreigner provided they buy a house or apartment worth more than ⿬160,000 ($200,000).

The plan, unveiled by Trade Ministry secretary Jaime Garcia-Legaz Monday and expected to be approved in the coming weeks, would be aimed principally at Chinese and Russian buyers. Spain has more than 700,000 unsold houses following the collapse of its real estate market in 2008 and demand from the recession-hit domestic market is stagnant.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy stressed Monday that the plan has not yet been finalized, but added that Spain "needs to sell these homes" and that getting them off the market could help revive the nation's devastated construction industry.

The plan to unload the unsold homes comes as thousands of houses have been repossessed by banks and their owners evicted because they cannot pay their mortgages. The government last week approved a decree under which evictions would be suspended for two years in specific cases of extreme need.

The country's residency offer would beat others in bailed-out countries such as Ireland and Portugal, where residency papers are offered to foreigners buying houses worth more than ⿬400,000 and ⿬500,000, respectively. However, Latvia on the Baltic coast offers a cheaper deal, with property buyers eligible to receive residency permits if they purchase real estate in the capital Riga worth ⿬140,000 or ⿬70,000 in the countryside.

Spain is in the midst of a double-dip recession with 25 percent unemployment, though Rajoy said he believes Spain has managed to avoid a financial implosion and will start growing again in late 2013 and in 2014.

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