Spain may offer automatic residency to foreigners such as Chinese and Russians who buy homes in the country, aiming to help the ruined housing market, a government official said Monday.
"We have proposed to the other ministries that for residents who acquire a home in Spain for more than 160,000 euros ($205,000), that will automatically entail a residency permit," said junior trade minister Jaime Garcia-Legaz.
"We are thinking of markets such as the Russian and the Chinese ones," he added, speaking at an economic gathering in comments broadcast by national television.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy later told a news conference that "no decision" had yet been taken on formally launching the scheme, but said that Spain's stock of unsold housing needed to be sold at "reasonable prices".
Spain has a mountain of unsold homes built during a construction boom that went bust in 2008, dragging it into a recession that has thrown millions out of work and caused many families to be evicted.
An organisation that defends insolvent mortgage-holders against eviction, PAH, criticised the residency proposal, with a spokeswoman for the group, Ana Colau, saying it would mount legal challenges against the scheme.
"It is not only immoral but may further worsen the situation and cause new evictions of mortgage-holders," she said in comments broadcast on radio station RNE.