13 March 2017 – El Periódico
It never rains but it pours: property prices in Barcelona are rising in a continuous and alarming way; a bullish process that echoes the trend seen in residential rental prices in recent times. Only those who are very optimistic – or very cynical – will be able to argue that these price rises are not a reflection of the improvement in the economy and that the laws of the market are as follows: the more pressure in terms of demand (from property buyers), the more the supply benefits (owners and real estate companies alike). According to all indications, the worst of the crisis is over, but the reality of the daily economy is far from the one seen during the years before the bubble burst, in 2007-2008 (and probably will not be in the next few years): average salaries have decreased, employment is more precarious and young people looking to emancipate themselves are finding it very difficult to put a roof over their heads.
But Barcelona is fashionable, a phenomenon that seems unlikely to end (nor would that be desirable) – and moreover, available land for new homes is in short supply. The combination of these two factors is fuelling the purchase of properties as investments, in many cases by foreigners and, is leading to a price spiral that, according to reliable samples, means that 80% of the homes currently up for sale cost at least €200,000. Below that price, properties abound only in the neighbourhoods of Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Horta-Guinardó.
The Town Hall, led by Ada Colau, has taken some initiatives to alleviate these perverse effects of Barcelona’s appeal, but its legal and economic capacity is limited. The problem requires coordinated action with other administrations if a mockery is not to be made of the Constitution, which establishes that: all Spaniards have the right to decent housing and that the public authorities must ensure as such, “by regulating the use of land in accordance with the general interest to avoid speculation”.
Barcelona, at the forefront in many periods in history, still has time to show that success does not have to denaturalise a city to the point of turning against its inhabitants and driving them out through a large-scale gentrification process. Nobody wants Barcelona to end up like Venice, a paradigm of a city, with lots of glamour and many visitors but with increasingly little soul.
Original story: El Periódico
Translation: Carmel Drake