11 August 2016 – Expansión
One month ago, the mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, announced the launch of an emergency plan against unlicensed tourist apartments in operation in the city. Since then, the Town Hall has ordered the closure of 256 flats in total; in 2015, 400 orders were issued during the whole of the year. Nevertheless, for the trade association Apartur, which represents legal suppliers (of tourist accommodation), that figure is insufficient, and so it has called for the municipal government to make more effort.
A month ago, the town hall reinforced the number of agents making on-site inspections or verifying offers advertised on the internet. The sanctioned owners will receive a court order requiring them to cease their activity and they must pay a fine of €30,000. If they reoffend, the amount of the fine will increase.
One of the initiatives that Colau had announced a year ago was that unlicensed homes that joined the program for homes to be used as social housing would not be sanctioned, but for the time being, no property has joined that plan.
Over the next few weeks, both operators will receive notifications and must pay a fine of €60,000 each. If they reoffend, the sanctions may reach €600,000.
The trade association Apartur celebrated the municipal initiative, but stressed that it is still a long way from eradicating the illegal offer that exists in the city. It also questioned the moratorium underway, which is affecting both the opening of hotels and the granting of new licences for tourist apartments, given that it is making the eradication of this activity more difficult. Its commitment, it said, is to a “responsible”, “sustainable” and civic tourist model.
Web site and letters
The municipal government defended itself against the critics and said that proof that it is giving priority to this issue is the creation of a website that allows neighbours to report illegal tourist apartments. During the course of one month, it has received 375 notifications. It has also started to send 800,000 letters this week, in which it calls on citizens to “collaborate”.
Nevertheless, the discomfort of several neighbourhood organisations against illegal tourist apartments is continuing to grow, and this summer it has extended further beyond the centre to reach neighbourhoods such as Poblenou.
Original story: Expansión (by David Casals)
Translation: Carmel Drake