13 June 2018 – La Vanguardia
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, is going to force house builders that are constructing new homes or undertaking major renovation projects in the Catalan capital to allocate 30% of their buildings to social housing. This proposal from the Government’s team will be taken to the municipal plenary at the end of this month and threatens to generate a fierce legal battle between property developers and the Town Hall. The legal consequences are expected to be even more profound than those brought about by the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation (Peuat), which has been the subject of more than one hundred appeals.
The initiative proposes two modifications to the existing General Metropolitan Plan (PGM), which will need agreement from the municipal groups if they are to be approved initially. One of them establishes the bases to oblige private property developers to contribute to the creation of social housing. The other involves extending the Town Hall’s right of first refusal across the whole city, in such a way that the administration will have preferential rights for the acquisition of estates in all sale and purchase transactions.
This proposal can be traced back to a requirement launched a few months ago by the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH), which demanded that the Town Hall apply this percentage – 30% – to property developers in an obligatory to expand the public stock of housing. Ada Colau, who in February hired Carlos Macías, one of the spokesmen for the PAH, as an advisor, is hereby looking to satisfy that entity, for which she used to work as an activist and which has openly criticised her housing policies on more than one occasion.
Nevertheless, the urban modification project, which the BComú government has forged with the utmost secrecy and without the involvement of any trade associations or other affected agents, has infuriated the sector, which warns of the dangerous effects that this measure may generate. They include the risk of paralysing real estate activity at a time of recovery and the consequent legal battle to annul these plans.
The document, prepared by municipal experts in collaboration with Barcelona Regional, has been sent to municipal groups to start conversations and try to make progress in a meeting today towards its approval by the Urban Planning Committee next week. After overcoming that process, if the first obstacle is indeed overcome, the proposal will be discussed in the plenary. Even so, it still has a long way to go before it could come into force.
The modification would affect all new build or major renovation projects that have an urbanistic housing roof (surface area) of more than 600 m2, in practice, the vast majority of real estate developments in the city. According to the document, they would be obliged to “allocate at least 30% of those roofs to public housing”. The properties could be sold or leased but must be located in the same building (…). If the proposal goes ahead and overcomes all of the legal processes, it will become normal for residents of luxury homes in the city to live alongside residents of social housing properties (…).
If the current rate of construction in Barcelona continues over the next few years, if Ada Colau’s government manages to push through her proposal and if the inevitable legal appeals rule in favour of the Town Hall, then the initiative to allocate 30% of new build homes to social housing could increase the city’s public housing stock by 400 units per year. In 2017, 1,373 new homes were started in the Catalan capital (…).
Original story: La Vanguardia (by Silvia Angulo)
Translation: Carmel Drake