La Generalitat Approves a Law that Provides for the Expropriation of Vacant Homes

5 March 2019 – La Vanguardia

The Government of Cataluña has approved a decree law establishing around thirty urgent measures to improve access to housing in the region.

The objective of the law is three-fold: to address the lack of social housing available for rent; to facilitate instruments to combat emergency situations and evictions; and to moderate increases in residential rental prices.

The measures range from fines to the expropriation of homes that have been empty for two years (from large property owners at a reduced price, which is no case may exceed 50% of the market price), to forcing the banks to rehouse in social housing properties any residents that they choose to evict.

Another measure in the pipeline, for introduction later this year, includes a plan to increase the minimum rental term, which currently stands at three years, to increase it to between six and ten years, depending on whether the owner is a private individual or a real estate company. Moreover, efforts are being made to limit rental price increases to CPI.

Original story: La Vanguardia (by Luis B. García)

Summary/Translation: Carmel Drake

Barcelona’s Town Hall has Shut Down 2,355 Illegal Tourist Apartments in 2 Years

11 July 2018 – Inmodiario

After launching the emergency plan against illegal tourist apartments (HUT) in July 2016, the Town Hall of Barcelona has closed 2,355 properties and is in the process of shutting down another 1,800.

Moreover, this summer the “Fair Tourism BCN” campaign is being promoted once again to inform and raise awareness amongst citizens and visitors alike about the dangers of this illegal activity for everyone.

In total, 10,635 files have been opened and 5,503 fines have been imposed, five times as many as during the period from 2014 to 2016. The number of termination orders rose from 663 in 2014 to 4,148 in 2016.

By area, the files opened have been located primarily in L’Eixample (3,193) and Ciutat Vella (2,920), followed by Sant Martí (1,220), Sants-Montjuïc (1,042) and Gràcia (939).

In addition to this activity, inspections have been conducted of: 81 entire buildings where it was suspected that illegal tourist activity was being undertaken; 21 student halls, also suspected of tourist activity; and 61 illegal B&Bs, under the umbrella of rooms for rent, which were leasing all of their rooms.

Besides the fining activity, the team comprising more than 100 inspectors and visualisers is continuing to work to ensure that closed down apartments do not reopen, to identify new illegal properties and to hunt down the organised networks that are managing more than one property.

In parallel, work is continuing with holiday rental platforms through a joint roundtable that has been working for some time with Homeaway, Booking, TripAdvisor, Rentalia and Apartur, and which has recently been joined by Airbnb.

Work is currently on-going to allow the Town Hall to have access to data about users who have joined the platforms since 1 June 2018.

Original story: Inmodiario 

Translation: Carmel Drake

Colau Wants To Turn Tourist Flats Into Social Housing

7 August 2015 – Expansión

Tourism in Barcelona / Colau will forgive 80% of the fines imposed on the most centrally-located unlicenced apartments if their owners agree to allow the properties to be used by the town hall (for social housing) for three years.

Curbing tourist “speculation” was one of the most-repeated slogans quoted by Ada Colau, the mayoress of Barcelona, during her election campaign. After suspending the opening of new hotels and hostels for a whole year across the entire city, now it is the turn of a new battery of measures, which will affect a key sector for the Catalan capital’s economy, tourism.

On Wednesday, the town hall reported that it is going to launch a pilot plan in the Ciutat Vella district – the most central area of the city – aimed at the owners of unlicenced tourist apartments who have been fined repeatedly in recent years.

In exchange for writing off 80% of their cumulative fines, the town hall will offer them the opportunity to place their apartments at the disposal of the town hall for a period of three years, which will then award them to families in situations of social emergency under rental agreements. If owners grant their properties for a longer period, then the town hall may write off 100% of their fines. Once the fines have been repaid, the apartment owners will receive the rent directly from the families.

From 15 September, the town hall will start to inform fined owners about this option for dealing with their penalties.

For the time being, the initiative will focus on 330 property owners, whose fining procedures have been completed. There are more illegal apartments whose penalties are still being processed, but for now the initiative will not affect them. On average, fines amount to €15,000 per property owner, but according to the law, they may reach up to €90,000.

As part of its measures to combat the new “speculative bubble”, the town hall has also announced that it will fine any digital platforms that advertise tourist flats without a licence from September.

The town hall explicitly cited two websites that account for 80% of the supply, Airbnb and Booking, and asked them to provide information to identify the apartments they advertise, so that checks can be completed to see which properties have licences and which do not.

Ada Colau’s team also warned the online platforms that they should include the licence numbers of the apartments they advertise. If they do not collaborate, they will be subject to significant fines, in accordance with the ruling legislation. They also stated that not all illegal apartments have been fined yet due to a lack of “political will”.

Reactions

The platform Airbnb said in a statement that the fines that have been announced “create confusion” and represent “a step back” in terms of the regulation of the sector.

The opposition parties, CiU and PP described the measures announced as “smoke (and mirrors)” and accused Colau of taking decisions for show (i.e just for the sake of being seen to do something) and C’s asked the town hall not to “blackmail” property owners. ERC rejected the idea to write off fines because it “rewards” those who have not held licences for years. The PSC saw the announcement as a positive move, but called for more inspections.

Original story: Expansión (by David Casals)

Translation: Carmel Drake