Converting commercial units for residential use: a growing trend in Valencia


29 December, 2023


We’re receiving more and more inquiries about the possibility of converting ground-floor units into housing. In our view, the main reason for this is the need for more homes for Valencia’s residents. A shortage of apartments in large cities is driving this trend, which was quite a classic at the start of the last century.

As businesses struggle to survive on the high street due to the growing digitalisation of many services, among other reasons, ground-floor units are being given a new lease of life where they are truly needed: as part of the city’s housing stock. Ground-floor living is bringing disused commercial premises back to life and alleviating housing problems.

Valencia is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for people within and beyond Spain but its capacity to house them is limited by a shortage of available housing. Changing the use of a ground-floor unit from commercial to residential is an excellent option in terms of the building’s liveability and its profitability as an investment.

At EPIGRAM, we’re fully acquainted with the bureaucratic requirements for a change of use application. We’re currently converting a series of ground-floor units into comfortable, high-quality, meticulously designed new-build apartments.

How can I apply for a change of use from commercial to residential?

The first thing to consider is the purpose of the future residential unit. If all you want to do is convert a commercial premises into housing for your own use or for long-term letting, the paperwork is quite simple. But, if you want to rent out your apartment to holidaymakers, there are some other considerations to bear in mind.

Currently, changing the use from commercial to residential is permitted in every neighbourhood in Valencia but tourist rentals are not. This depends on the tourism pressures on each neighbourhood and it is up to Valencia City Council to decide which areas new holiday rentals are allowed in and which are off limits (and watch out, because the criteria are changing all the time).

In any case, it’s important to be clear on the future use of the premises from the outset to make it easier to adapt the design to the requirements for planning permission and obtain this permission more quickly.

If you’re certain that you don’t want your property to remain a commercial premises but you aren’t yet sure whether you want to rent to holidaymakers, there’s a middle ground: design the apartment to comply with the strictest requirements for residential and tourist use so that it can be used for different purposes in the future, making it a more flexible, valuable asset.

We know that this is a complicated topic but EPIGRAM is fully acquainted with the procedures to follow, so feel free to contact us if you have any queries about a property.

Factors to consider when converting ground-floor units for residential use

Although living on the ground floor might be less appealing than an apartment on a higher level, any change in use will require the space to be remodelled so the outcome will be the same as a new build, offering an opportunity for high-quality features if the necessary work is carried out.

That said, there are certain variables that can make one ground-floor apartment much better than another. For example, the length of the façade and number of voids opening onto the street will influence the interior lighting. If the unit is narrow and deep, the presence of a rear courtyard will improve it by letting in enough light at either end to illuminate the entire apartment.

It is also important to consider factors such as access to the ground floor without steps, headroom and whether there is enough space for outdoor air conditioning units, extractor fans, etc.

Another aspect to consider is the amount of traffic on the street in question. Living on the ground floor is more pleasant on a quiet street with few cars or pedestrians.

Quick turnaround times for planning permission

The companies working with Valencia City Council to process applications for planning permission (ECUVs) have made the procedure for obtaining permission for a change of use considerably faster. If your property and plans are compatible with residential use, the change of use procedure can be dealt with in less than six months.

The turnaround time is even shorter if the ground-floor unit is licensed for tertiary activity, such as a hair salon or bar. In this case, no additional licence would be required for a holiday let as it falls under the same sector.

Meanwhile, the renovation process may take around five months in a standard ground-floor unit, based on the usual turnaround times at our studio.

Optimise your time and money by seeking support from an expert

At EPIGRAM, our team of architects has extensive knowledge of urban planning and procedures and requirements for obtaining permission to change the use of a ground-floor unit.
We offer a consulting service, which covers not only the design and execution of the project but also the purchasing process, including an evaluation of the location, geometry, architectural possibilities and habitability of the property in question.

Contact us if you would like us to help.

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