Town Hall of Madrid Approves Legislation to Close 10,000+ VUTs

27 March 2019 – El País

On Wednesday, the Town Hall of Madrid approved a special plan to regulate the licences required to operate tourist apartments (“viviendas de uso turístico” or VUTs).

To obtain a licence, a VUT must now have a separate access from the other homes in the building, which means, in practice, that 95% of the establishments of this kind in Madrid will have to close. More than 10,000 VUTs will be affected, according to municipal calculations. The legislation applies to those properties defined as VUT by the Community of Madrid, which are effectively those that are leased for 90 days or more per year.

The new legislation, which was supported by Ahora Madrid and the PSOE, will enter into force within the next few days. Non-compliance will trigger a process to cease the activity in that property, like in the case of a bar operating without a licence, rather than the imposition of a fine.

It was in January 2018 that the Town Hall of Madrid established that VUTs – homes that are leased for three months or more – represent an economic activity and, therefore, require a licence. At the same time, a moratorium was declared on the granting of licences whilst the new legislation was drafted, which has now been approved.

The impact on the more than 40,000 reservations that have been made in accommodation of this kind for the Gay Pride celebrations in July 2019 is far from clear.

Original story: El País (by Gloria Rodríguez-Pina)

Translation/Summary: Carmel Drake

Countdown to Los Berrocales: Investment of €4.4bn Over 20 Years

18 February 2019 – Eje Prime

More millions for Los Berrocales. Joaquín Gómez, manager of the Los Berrocales Compensation Board, expects investment of up to €4.4 billion from the owners and future housing developers over 20 years. That amount will be added to the €200 million that has already been invested by the owners in pipelines, collectors, infrastructures, service roads and earth movement work.

The proposal that has been reached with the owners of Los Berrocales is that the neighbourhood will be constructed in phases. First, phases I and III, which are expected to involve the construction of 10,000 homes over 10 years. The rest of the construction work will be carried out in the following decade. Up to 100,000 homes from the plan, located in Los Cerros and Valdecarros, will be suspended due to the requests filed for compensation against the Town Hall, according to reports from Cinco Días.

Nevertheless, the approval of the agreement does not mean that the construction work is going to begin immediately. In fact, Gómez expects that construction of the homes could begin in 2022 or 2023. For now, there are no threats of suspensions for political reasons given that Ahora Madrid, Ciudadanos and the PP are all in favour of the project. The position of Pepu Hernández, the likely socialist candidate, if he is elected mayor, remains to be seen.

The owners of the 8.3 million m2 of land include Habitat, Pryconsa, Santander, Caixabank and Liberbank. Another of the major landowners is the Town Hall of Madrid, which holds almost 8% of the plots.

Original story: Eje Prime 

Translation: Carmel Drake

A Public Consultation Period Opens for Newly Approved Operación Chamartín

20 September 2018 – El Mundo

On Thursday, the Governing Board of the Town Hall of Madrid approved the modification to the General Urban Development Plan to develop the Madrid Nuevo Norte project, previously known as Operación Chamartín, 25 years after the first attempts were made to get the project off the ground and after long negotiations between the Ministry of Development, the property developer Distrito Castellana Norte (DCN), the entity awarded land by Adif, and the Town Hall.

Now, a period of public consultation has opened ahead of a debate in the Plenary, likely before the end of the year, in a meeting that is expected to be tense for the Ahora Madrid group, whose vote will be split, given that six councillors – three from Ganemos and three from Izquierda Unida – have expressed their opposition to the project. In fact, yesterday, Mauricio Valencia, the third deputy mayor, opposed the development at the meeting of the Governing Body after his party, Izquierda Unida asked Congress to suspend the new urban plans, which will completely change the northern face of the Spanish capital.

After it is approved in the Plenary, the plan will be sent to the Community of Madrid for its definitive approval, a mere formality, given that the Government of Ángel Garrido has already announced that it will give its approval provided all of the administrative requirements are fulfilled.

The councillor for Sustainable Urban Development, José Manuel Calvo, yesterday welcomed the fact that the project is going to be approved with “the support of the four groups” from the municipal body and with a different party leading each of the three administrations (…).

The new project has reduced the total permitted buildability of the project approved by the Town Hall of Ana Botella from 3,370,000 m2 in 2015 to 2,657,313 m2, which represents a decrease of 713,631 m2 (or 21%) (…).

In total, 10,500 new homes are planned, of which around 4,000 will be for social housing, owned by the Town Hall, within the 36% of land that corresponds to it according to the plans (…).

The councillor (for Sustainable Development) highlighted that one of the fundamental aspects of the operation will be the renovation of Chamartín train station, which “we want to turn into one of the best railway stations in Europe” (…).

The project, which is divided into four operating areas: Chamartín station, the Business Centre, Malmea-San Roque-Tres Olivos and Las Tablas Oeste, includes 390,700 m2 of green space, 252,094 m2 of facilities and 848,617 m2 for transportation. It will also have office space spanning 1 million m2 and the tallest tower in Spain, with 70 storeys.

The President of DCN, Antonio Béjar, said yesterday that he was “satisfied” with the approval of the plan, which in his opinion “proves that the regeneration of the north of Madrid is now a reality and that there is no turning back”, reports Efe. Meanwhile, Ecologists in Action and residents grouped into the FRAVM and North Zone Platform criticised the operation again for benefitting private interests and not those of citizens.

Original story: El Mundo (by Roberto Bécares)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Town Hall of Madrid Criticised for Selling Plot Reportedly Worth €48M for €16M

18 April 2018 – La Vanguardia

The PSOE has denounced the Government of Manuela Carmena for breaching the agreed budget for 2017 and “the most basic municipal obligation” with its sale of a plot in Carabanchel for €16 million. It alleges that the sale was a “total waste”, given that the site was reportedly worth €48 million, up to three times more.

The socialist councillor, Mercedes González, condemned the delegate for Sustainable Urban Development (DUS), José Manuel Calvo, for the sale of the plot measuring 38,140 m2, which had belonged to the EMT, for a “modicum sum” in an auction in which the property developer Pryconsa participated on its own.

The plot is located on Avenida de Carabanchel, 21, in the district of Carabanchel, in a privileged location in the opinion of the PSOE – the investiture partner of Ahora Madrid – where a significant number of social housing properties could have been built.

The socialist spokesperson on the committee denounced that the plot had been sold with the knowledge and consent of the delegate, whose team also supported the “enormous” growth of the buildability from 2,600 m2 to 27,000 m2 (…).

The plot was sold for €427/m2, or €16 million in total, even though, according to the IBI (Property Tax) charge, the cadastral value of the site is €48 million (…).

In the face of these complaints, the councillor José Manuel Calvo defended that he had not intervened in the process or the sale decision (…).

The deal between PSOE and Ahora Madrid for the 2017 budgets established that the Town Hall would not sell any of its land or properties.

Original story: La Vanguardia

Translation: Carmel Drake

Carmena Is Set To Build 1,000 Rental Homes For €60M

19 September 2016 – Voz Populi

The rebirth of the real estate market will soon have a new, unusual, player in its midst: the Town Hall of Madrid. The capital’s Town Hall is getting ready to fire the starting gun for the construction of the first rental homes that it plans to build during its legislature. For the time being, it will put out to tender the construction of almost 1,000 homes, with an initial investment of more than €60 million.

Social housing was one of the key pillars of Ahora Madrid’s election campaign during the municipal elections to govern the largest town hall in Spain, which were held in 2015. For the first few months, the municipality’s new team focused on getting to know the financial circumstances of the ‘Empresa Municipal de la Vivienda y el Suelo’ (EMVS), which starred in spectacular asset sales during Ana Botella’s reign at the Town Hall, all intended to alleviate the city’s economic difficulties.

The Town Hall’s plans now include constructing 4,000 new social housing homes in Madrid before the end of its legislature. Work will begin on a quarter of them within the next few months, once the ten contracts that the mayoress’ team is currently preparing have been awarded (…).

The Town Hall’s property development activity will be launched once the role of the EMVS to contract and put homes on the market has been activated again, following the restrictions imposed on it in recent years. Previously, the company was in a very delicate financial situation due to the collapse in value of the large volumes of land that it had acquired at the end of the real estate bubble and, therefore, at exorbitant prices.

Those circumstances meant that the company had to divest assets, including packages of homes sold to vulture funds, which generated a lot of controversy, which has now been declared void in the courts and by the investigation committee created to try to determine the legal nature of the operation.

In April 2016, the Town Hall injected €17 million into the EMVS, through a capital increase, an amount that was intended to allow it to continue cancelling its debt but which, at the same time, allowed it to relaunch the public company’s construction activity. The developments are located in the district of Vallecas and in the areas of Rosilla and Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, although the Town Hall’s also plans to construct homes in other areas of the capital too.

This is undoubtedly an unprecedented move and not only in the public sphere, but also in the private. Many real estate companies have cancelled their development plans due to the collapse of the market and the lack of demand, together with the problems generated by the large volume of empty homes in Madrid. The contracts that the Town Hall will put out to tender mean that almost 1,000 new homes will be constructed within two years of them being awarded.

Original story: Voz Populi (by Raúl Pozo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Villar Mir Receives Approval To Resume Work At Canalejas

24 May 2016 – Cinco Días

The Canalejas Complex has returned to cruising speed after overcoming one of the obstacles that stood in its path. In April 2015, the Local Heritage Committee (comprising the Town Hall of Madrid and the regional Government) opened an investigation into the construction work that the Villar Mir Group was carrying out, after it detected that damage had been caused in the first bay (the space between load-bearing walls). After months of work, it completed its investigation in January 2016 – confirm sources at the company – and so Villar Mir was allowed to continue with the building work at the site, which will house a Four Seasons Hotel, luxury homes and a shopping arcade right in the centre of the capital.

“The investigation into the first bay was resolved and the suspension (of the building work) was lifted”, explain sources at OHL, the listed company that forms part of the Grupo Villar Mir and which is responsible for developing this complex. The Committee’s investigation was opened by municipal technicians when Ana Botella (PP) was still the mayoress. Sources at Estudio Lamela Aquitectos, which was appointed to design Canalejas, confirm that the construction work has continued as normal since then.

The problem arose when part of the bay, located in a small area, threatened to break off, say sources at the company chaired by Juan Miguel Villar Mir. For the time being, although the investigation has been closed, they do not know whether the listed company will face any financial penalties in the future.

The team led by the Government of Manuela Carmena (Ahora Madrid) has also granted OHL a structural licence to raise the frame of the building, and so construction work has continued apace during the first few months of the year. “We received the structural licence in January”, say sources at Estudio Lamela. “That licence has allowed us to carry out the work that is visible from the outside”, say sources at OHL. Now the only licence pending is the one relating to the completion of the refurbishment.

The project was unblocked at the end of last year by political and legal means. On the one hand, a trial judge dismissed the application to suspend the building works, which had been filed by a company that alleged that it had signed a previous sale and purchase contract with Santander. Villar Mir ended up acquiring this central block for €215 million and whereby took ownership of the properties in the Canalejas area, next to Puerta del Sol.

On the political side, after Carmena took over the reins of the city, the Town Hall decided to review the project and it opened a negotiation table with the company and the regional Government. In October, the parties agreed to reduce the volume of the block at its highest point so as to reduce the visual impact. The agreement meant that the listed company had to relinquish its plans for the height of the building in order to unblock the construction work and accept a lower return on the project.

The last remaining stumbling block now is the public prosecutor, which is continuing its investigation, following a claim by the Madrid, Ciudadanía y Patrimonio Association that an alleged crime has been committed against the historical heritage of the city during this refurbishment.

The renovation involves seven adjoining properties located between Calles de Alcalá, Sevilla, Plaza de Canalejas and Carrera de San Jerónimo. For the last few decades, those historical buildings have housed the headquarters of financial institutions such as Banesto, Central Hispano and Zaragozano.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Madrid’s Town Hall Votes Against Operación Chamartín

19 May 2016 – Expansión

The Town Hall of Madrid has taken another step in its crusade against Operación Chamartín, promoted by Distrito Castellana Norte (DCN) – jointly owned by BBVA and San José – and has thereby buried the private initiative for the extension of La Castellana, backed by the previous PP regional government.

The latest chapter in the battle to control the development of the area in the north of the capital was written yesterday with the Committee for Sustainable Urban Development’s rejection of Operación Chamartín. Specifically, the Committee ruled out the project with votes from Ahora Madrid and the PSOE, its partner at the Town Hall.

By contrast, councillors from the PP and Ciudadanos parties, who are in favour of the project, voted against the proposal to deny the definitive approval of the Partial Interior Reform Plan promoted by DCN, included on the Committee’s agenda for the day.

The plans for Operación Chamartín were submitted at the beginning of 2015 by the previous Town Hall, the Community of Madrid and the Ministry of Development together with the development company, but it was not debated in the municipal Plenary because of the upcoming elections.

During the Committee’s debate, the PP councillor José Luis Martínez Almeida warned about the “criminal liabilities” that the Government team may incur for not basing its decisions on reports and for seeking to substitute a global agreement for the development of the north of Madrid with a 16-page plan.

Meanwhile, the Ciudadanos councillor Bosco Labrado asked the Government’s team to look for a real solution for DCN’s project.

By contrast, the PSOE councillor Mercedes González congratulated the Government’s team on the new proposal for the north of Madrid and asked that the minutes reflect that his political party vindicates Eduardo Manglada and all of the other people who have contributed to changing the city. He mentioned Eduardo Leira – the husband of the mayoress – and Enrique Bardají, amongst others.

The Committee’s rejection of DCN’s project, which still needs to go through the Plenary, comes a week after Manuela Carmena’s town planning team presented its own alternative for the development of the north of the capital, known as Madrid Puerta Norte, at a public meeting. .

The alternative project

These plans, amongst other things, drastically reduce the number of homes to be constructed, down from around 17,800 to 4,600, and cut the buildable surface area from 3,270,053 sqm, planned by DCN, to 1,750,197 sqm.

The Town Hall’s proposal, which was presented by the mayoress herself and by a representative from the Sustainable Urban Planning Department, José Manuel Calvo, has not been agreed with the Ministry of Development or the Community of Madrid, which together with the Town Hall own 82% of the affected land, or with BBVA and San José, the promoters of the plan and owners of the management rights over the land.

In order to understand the Town Hall’s plans at first hand, the Ministry of Development has called a meeting for this Friday to which it has invited the mayoress of the capital, the President of the Community of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, contacts from the property developer DCN, and representatives from BBVA and the construction firm San José.

Sources at DCN declined to comment on the plans presented by the Town Hall as they are waiting to be provided with further information.

Original story: Expansión (by Rebeca Arroyo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Carmena Creates ‘”Political Table” To Resolve Operación Chamartín

29 October 2015 – Cinco Días

Manuela Carmena, the mayoress of Madrid, wants to start to resolve the situation known as Operación Chamartín, a town planning project in the North of the city that has been up in the air for more than 20 years now. The project is being led by the company Distrito Castellana Norte, in which BBVA owns a stake of more than 70%; the remaining shares are owned by Grupo San José. In order to move forwards, two working groups will be launched, one political and one technical, comprising officials from the Town Hall.

The Town Hall of Madrid will constitute a so-called “political and social table”, which all four of the political parties that have representation in the local government (Ahora Madrid, PP, PSOE and Cuidadanos) will be invited to join. Neighbourhood associations and the company Distrito Castellana Norte will also be encouraged to participate, according to sources at the Town Hall.

The mega-project, which was initially going to be approved by the PP during the previous legislature, will involve private investment amounting to around €6,000 million, the development of land covering 3.1 million m2 and the construction of up to 17,500 homes, over several phases.

The political table will monitor the conditions that Operación Chamartín will have to fulfil to be accepted, based on those approved yesterday by Ahora Madrid and the PSOE, which in turn rejected proposals made by Ciudadanos to create the table immediately and resolve the project within three months.

Ahora Madrid and PSOE agreed instead to an amendment to replace the proposal submitted by Cuidadanos. That group had released a statement defending the immediate creation of the table with the municipal groups, in order to establish the basic guidelines for resolving the operation within a maximum period of 90 days.

Meanwhile, the representative for Sustainable Urban Development, José Manuel Calvo, responded that it does not make sense to limit the duration of the debate to three months, however he added that there is no doubt that the current situation needs to be resolved soon.

Original story: Cinco Días (by Alfonso Simón Ruiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Opposition Parties Force Carmena To Reduce Business IBI

1 October 2015 – Expansión

The opposition parties in the Town Hall of Madrid (namely, the Partido Popular, PSOE and Ciudadanos) have put paid to the plans of the mayoress, Manuela Carmena, to increase the IBI rate for businesses and companies to 10%. In fact, they forced an agreement for it to be decreased by 2%. (Earlier in the week), all of the political parties, including Ahora Madrid, approved a 7% reduction in the residential IBI rate, and now, the opposition parties have forced a 2% decrease in the business rate.

The agreement by the plenary session represents an overall decrease of 100% for residential properties, as well as for the vast majority of non-residential properties. The 7% reduction in the property tax, will decrease the tax from its current rate of 0.548% to 0.51%.

Moreover, the majority – the result of the vote went against Ahora Madrid – approved a commitment to continue to reduce the rate of IBI for residential properties to 0.4%, the minimum rate set by law, “respecting the payment of expenses approved by the government, as well as sustainability”.

Meanwhile, the PP congratulated itself after some of the proposals it had presented to the plenary session were approved, including: zero taxes for entrepreneurs for the first two years (…).

In the same way, it indicated that large companies should not have to pay taxes for having “larger” buildings since “the rate of IBI is progressive and so it does not make sense for smaller clinics to pay a lower rate of IBI than public hospitals”.

Begoña Villacís, from Ciudadanos, said that the Town Hall should have a “single discourse” regarding the payment of debt, and the tourist tax. Moreover, she said that her party proposes a reduction in taxes and that the Town Hall should support the cadastral review plan.

The socialist Ransés Pérez Boga pointed out that on 22 July the plenary session approved a decrease in the rate of IBI, after it had been proposed by his party. He advocated a decrease in the rate of business IBI “to maintain the social progressive nature of the tax charge”. In his judgement, the reduction will allow companies to retain their employees.

Original story: Expansión (by Mercedes Serraller).

Translation: Carmel Drake

Madrid’s Property Tax (IBI) Will Decrease By 7% In 2016

22 September 2015 – El País

In October, the Town Hall of Madrid will approve a 7% decrease in the property tax (‘Impuesto sobre bienes inmuebles’ or IBI) for all homes and the majority of commercial premises, offices and retail stores. This decrease, accepted begrudgingly by the minority Ahora Madrid government following its enforcement by the other parties (PP, PSOE and Ciudadanos), will be passed with equal reluctance next month by the socialists, who were seeking a higher cut. The 7% decrease in IBI will be equivalent to a €25 reduction in the average monthly bill (€350).

Yesterday, a Councillor from the Treasury, Carlos Sánchez Mato (pictured), announced a 7% decrease in the rate of IBI for all homes in the capital (1,448,765 households) and for the majority of non-residential buidlings.

Nevertheless, the rate will increase by 10% for those non-residential buildings that have a “higher cadastral (land registry) value”. The Town Hall defines this threshold as follows: for individual buildings, the increase will apply only to those that have a cadastral value of more than €35 million (there are around 30 such properties in Madrid); retail stores worth more than €860,000 (around 3,000 of more than 97,000); buildings used for sporting activities worth more than €20 million (around 30 in total); and offices worth more than €2 million (1,760 out of almost 32,000).

These targeted increases to non-residential buildings with higher cadastral values will almost entirely offset the decrease in the rate of IBI for the rest of the city.

IBI is the main source of income from the Town Hall, and therefore any change in the rate significantly affects its capacity to provide public services: IBI will account for €1,279 million of the €4,388 million that the municipal coffers will receive this year (i.e. it accounts for almost one in every three euros). The changes proposed by Ahora Madrid will reduce this revenue by just 3.7%.

A new tax

This fall in revenues (€49 million) will be primarily offset by the creation of a new tax to be paid by the companies that generate the most waste. The other municipal taxes will remain unchanged in 2016, although there may be an as -yet-unknown decrease in the price of certain services (sports centres, kindergartens, etc). (…).

Original story: El País (by Bruno García Gallo)

Translation: Carmel Drake