Barcelona Accepts Seven Exceptions To The Hotel Moratorium

13 February 2016 – Expansion

Ada Colau´s  moratorium applied to the hotel sector in Barcelona in July last year did not catch the market by surprise, since a stoppage on the granting of new licenses was foreseen on her electoral program, while the hotel industry of the city was being reassessed. What surprised and angered the industry was the fact that the measure would affect projects already underway. 
Drivers of these establishments were quick to wield legal certainty to carry out their plans and threatened the City Council with highly expensive sues. 
The moratorium affected more than forty projects, some of them at a very early stage but others whose paperwork had been worked for months. Many of them alleged back then that they held a urban  certificate legally binding the council to accept licenses for processing and stating they were allowed to carry on with the project. 
The City Council, which at first denied this, has been six months later forced to accept these license applications. In total, seven requests have been accepted for processing, which will now come under consideration for compliance with the regulations. Among these seven projects we find Emin Capital, which bought Torre Agbar to open a Grand Hyatt, and Me que projects by Melia at Caspe Street. Two months earlier, Colau team had already unlocked Meridia Capital project in the former headquarters of Henkel and that of Amancio Ortega in the old headquarters of Banesto, where the opening of a hotel with Iberostar is planned. 
In addition to the ongoing projects that were affected by the measure, the moratorium adopted by Barcelona en Comú has stopped the investments in new hotel projects. Another immediate consequence was the rise in the value of existing establishments. Unable to open new hotels, investors have directed towards those which already had a license, those which have raised their sales expectations.


The sector is now awaiting the development of the plan being made by Ada Colau on hotel regulation by neighborhood. Hotel entrepreneurs are worried that Mayoress has spoken of a possible “decrease” in some areas.

Original story: Expansion (by Marisa Anglés)

Translation: Aura Ree

Colau Launches A Plan To Become The Largest Housing Developer In Barcelona

15 February 2016 – El Confidencial

The plan of Barcelona Mayoress of “Barcelona en Comú” is very ambitious: to promote a large park of affordable rental flats during his tenure, a public investment of around 500 million.

Ada Colau wants to change the game rules.  And housing development will be field chosen to do it, consistent with her past as an activist of the Platform of People Affected by Mortgage  And housing development is the field chosen to do it, consistent with her past as an activist of the People Affected by Mortages Platform (PAH). The plan is very ambitious: building 2,365 homes during his tenure, a public investment of around EUR 500 million and which would be taken on by Barcelona Municipal Housing Agency, a City Council´s body. With the project start, Colau will become the biggest Barcelona promoter.

The plan, to which “El Confidencial” has had access El Confidencial, is being currently presented by the new Manager of the Housing Agency, Javier Burón, in multiple rounds with developers, entrepreneurs and different social agents. Barcelona City Council, one of the few in Spain with a surplus, has sufficient funds to do it But as the project points out, funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB) is planned to be used to create a public park of rental housing in Barcelona similar to that of any European city. The EU rental home average is around 15% in an medium sized city. In Barcelona, this percentage is only around 1.5%.

Given that in 2015 all private developers built 3,000 homes in the Catalan capital, a drive this size would make the City Council become teh first Real Estate engine in the city.

Out of the 2,365 homes Ada Colau wants to promotr, almost 800 homes are already being built, by the Agency, most of them (a total of 105)  in Glòries district. Of the remainder, some 518 are in the process of getting licensed, half of them in the district of Sant Andreu.

And the rest is Colau´s flagship project: 10 real estate developments in the same number of sites, of which the City Council´s Agency will take care.
This part totals 1,145 homes spread over ten areas, defined in Buron´s  draft as “public and affordable land in the metropolitan area of Barcelona”.

Free Trade Zone commitment

Colau´s bet for the free zone is clear. Of the new projects, two promotions add 534 homes for the new Marina District in that part of town to be started.

But the new housing is only part of the bet, although the most important from the point of view of the City Council economic effort. Colau also plans taking measures such as a “future housing mapping and mobilization (empty homes) to guide them towards an affordable rent”, “bargaining, purchasing and refusal and preemptive rights with financial institutions” and apply a “procedure of penalties and tax measures against underuse “, e.g. penalizing empty flats, as stated in the project named ‘The local public action in Barcelona housing’.

As reflected in a study conducted in April 2015, in Barcelona there are 31,200 empty homes, of which about 2,592 are owned by financial institutions, appearing in the registry created by the “Generalitat”, as evidenced on Colau´s draft. The Mayoress wants to reach agreements with banks to transfer these properties in order to be also used in social rent.

Original story: Expansion (by Marcos Lamelas)

Translation: Aura Ree

RE Inv’t Reached €1,977M In Barcelona In 2015

16 January 2016 – El País

Real estate investment reached record figures in Barcelona last year. It amounted to €1,977 million in total, up by 43% compared with 2014, and exceeding even the levels seen before the crisis. The recovery in the office market primarily drove the trend, although there was also another important factor: overseas investment. According to a report by Aguirre Newman, foreign buyers accounted for 55% of all investments, and that percentage increases to 85% if we consider the Socimis’ shareholders. The remaining capital is local.

Investors’ need to seek reasonable rates of return explains their interest in Barcelona, according to the CEO of Aguirre Newman in Barcelona, Anna Gener. In her opinion, neither the sovereign process being undertaken by the Generalitat or the hotel moratorium imposed by Barcelona’s Town Hall have scared off investors, and her views are supported by the figures. The Catalan capital has continued to attract the same rate of investment as the rest of Spain, which amounted to €10,790 million in 2015, another historic record.

“Investment has grown a lot, given that the must talked about exodus of businesses did not happen”, explained Gener yesterday, who added that real estate advisors are more concerned about finding available supply for potential institutional investors, who have traditionally ben conservative when it comes to investing. She said the same thing applied in the case of hotels, which in Barcelona accounted for investment amounting to €347.5 million, despite the decision by the Barcelona en Comú Government to block new openings. “Hotels in Barcelona are so profitable that everyone wants hotels and the moratorium removes competitors from the sector”, said Gener, who predicted that the price of hotel licences will increase as a direct result of the Government’s measure.

The office market is still the most active segment, after achieving a rental volume of 400,000 m2 and total investment of €885 million, up by 52% compared with a year earlier. Aguirre Newman thinks that the major problem is the scarcity of supply in premium areas, which is putting upwards pressure on prices. Its major client this year has been la Generalitat, with the operation to concentrate offices from different departments in the Zona Franca, in one of the large facilities measuring 46,000 m2. There is no availability in the city centre for offices measuring more than 1,500 m2.

Another sector that is rising from the ashes is residential, with growth of 43% and an average price rise of 8% last year. The consultancy firm predicts an increase in the number of projects involving renovations and changes in use to luxury residential, with international buyers dominating the segment. In these high-end cases, Aguirre Newman forecast that prices may even reach €10,000/m2.

The forecast for this year is that investment across the whole real estate sector (in Barcelona) will amount to €2,000 million once again.

Original story: El País (by Dani Cordero)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Colau Convinces KKH To Abandon Luxury Hotel Project In BCN

2 October 2015 – Expansión

The real estate fund KKH, which owns the Deutsche Bank building in Barcelona, has agreed not to expand the property and convert it into a luxury hotel, as it had planned, after running into strong opposition from the new mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau.

The project has been affected not only by the moratorium imposed by Barcelona en Comú, but also by the fact that its suspension was one of Colau’s election promises.

KKH required permission from the Town Hall to demolish the building and construct a larger one, measuring 5,000 m2 more. In exchange, it has agreed to purchase the ‘Taller Masriera’ for €10 million and cede it to the Town Hall for public use, as well as to acquire the construction rights from Los Lluïsos de Gracia, who were willing to transfer the building rights in exchange for financial compensation.

The fund led by Josep Maria Farré has thrown in the towel and announced that it will renovate the existing building to convert it into luxury housing. In this way, the city bids farewell to a project that would have involved the entry of the hotel chain Four Seasons into Barcelona and the creation of 380 direct jobs.

Yesterday, the deputy mayoress for town planning, ecology and mobility, Janet Sanz, said she was pleased that the developers “had understood the extent of the fatigue that is affecting the city and its residents, regarding the cost and impact that certain operations may have in specific areas”.

Original story: Expansión (by M.A.)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Barcelona City Hall Suspends Tourist Licences For 1 Year

3 July 2015 – Cinco Días

The mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, has fulfilled one of the promises she made during the election campaign for the municipal elections with the launch of a one-year moratorium for the granting of tourist licences in the city. “Tourism is one of the city’s main assets and we have to take care of it and make it sustainable”, she said.

Colau’s announcement had been expected by the market, since it had been one of her main promises during the election campaign, but it did not take shape until yesterday. Barcelona’s City Council, governed by Barcelona en Comú, has taken the decision to freeze licences for at least one year. The town council’s aim is to submit a Special Plan for the Regulation of Tourist Accommodation during the first quarter of next year, although it does not rule out extending that period by another year.

Some of the most iconic hotel projects being carried out in Barcelona include the conversions of Torre Agbar, the Deutsche Bank tower and the Henkel building. But, according to Janet Sanz, deputy mayoress of ecology, urban development and mobility, the actual list is longer and includes around thirty properties. “We are not saying that none of these projects will go ahead, simply that we are beginning a process of reflection on our tourism model”.

This moratorium, which comes in addition to the one that already exists in the neighbourhood of Ciutat Vella, is intended to allow time for an in-depth analysis of the stock of tourist accommodation in the city, so that the existing supply and the economic and social impact of tourism can be evaluated and diagnosed. The freeze will affect all establishments, from luxury hotels to hostels, so that a “calm debate” can be held about the situation in the city. Plans are afoot at the Deutsche Bank tower, which KKH purchased  last year, to build a five star Four Seasons hotel, costing €150 million, and the plan is to open a Grand Hyatt hotel in the Torre Agbar, which Emin Capital acquired in 2013. Others, such as the property being renovated by the construction company owned by Josep Lluís Núñez, the former President of FC Barcelona, will be excused from the moratorium.

In terms of Spanish hotel chains, the moratorium may affect Barceló, which is planning to open two new establishments in the city: one on Avenida Diagonal, 414 with views of the Casa de les Punxes, and the other, the conversion of the former headquarters of Nubiola Pigmentos, on the corner of Pau Claris and Gran Vía, which is still in its early phases. Nearby, one of Melia’s ME hotels, with 173 rooms, on the corner of Calle Casp and Paseo de Gracia may be affected. (…). Iberostar, Room Mate and Praktik Hotels could also be affected. (…).

The market regards the moratorium as a sign of insecurity for the entry of new investors. “The decision creates legal and administrative insecurity and leaves investors interested in entering the city on stand by”, says Inmaculada Ranero, CEO of Christie + Co for Spain and Portugal. (…).

Original story: Cinco Días

Translation: Carmel Drake