Colau to Force 30% of New Build Homes to be Allocated to Social Housing

13 June 2018 – La Vanguardia

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, is going to force house builders that are constructing new homes or undertaking major renovation projects in the Catalan capital to allocate 30% of their buildings to social housing. This proposal from the Government’s team will be taken to the municipal plenary at the end of this month and threatens to generate a fierce legal battle between property developers and the Town Hall. The legal consequences are expected to be even more profound than those brought about by the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation (Peuat), which has been the subject of more than one hundred appeals.

The initiative proposes two modifications to the existing General Metropolitan Plan (PGM), which will need agreement from the municipal groups if they are to be approved initially. One of them establishes the bases to oblige private property developers to contribute to the creation of social housing. The other involves extending the Town Hall’s right of first refusal across the whole city, in such a way that the administration will have preferential rights for the acquisition of estates in all sale and purchase transactions.

This proposal can be traced back to a requirement launched a few months ago by the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH), which demanded that the Town Hall apply this percentage – 30% – to property developers in an obligatory to expand the public stock of housing. Ada Colau, who in February hired Carlos Macías, one of the spokesmen for the PAH, as an advisor, is hereby looking to satisfy that entity, for which she used to work as an activist and which has openly criticised her housing policies on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless, the urban modification project, which the BComú government has forged with the utmost secrecy and without the involvement of any trade associations or other affected agents, has infuriated the sector, which warns of the dangerous effects that this measure may generate. They include the risk of paralysing real estate activity at a time of recovery and the consequent legal battle to annul these plans.

The document, prepared by municipal experts in collaboration with Barcelona Regional, has been sent to municipal groups to start conversations and try to make progress in a meeting today towards its approval by the Urban Planning Committee next week. After overcoming that process, if the first obstacle is indeed overcome, the proposal will be discussed in the plenary. Even so, it still has a long way to go before it could come into force.

The modification would affect all new build or major renovation projects that have an urbanistic housing roof (surface area) of more than 600 m2, in practice, the vast majority of real estate developments in the city. According to the document, they would be obliged to “allocate at least 30% of those roofs to public housing”. The properties could be sold or leased but must be located in the same building (…). If the proposal goes ahead and overcomes all of the legal processes, it will become normal for residents of luxury homes in the city to live alongside residents of social housing properties (…).

If the current rate of construction in Barcelona continues over the next few years, if Ada Colau’s government manages to push through her proposal and if the inevitable legal appeals rule in favour of the Town Hall, then the initiative to allocate 30% of new build homes to social housing could increase the city’s public housing stock by 400 units per year. In 2017, 1,373 new homes were started in the Catalan capital (…).

Original story: La Vanguardia (by Silvia Angulo)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Anticipa Has Accepted 2,400 ‘Daciones En Pago’ In 1 Year

18 April 2016 – El Periódico

Anticipa Real Estate, the real estate manager that the fund Blackstone acquired from CatalunyaCaixa, began by purchasing a portfolio of non-performing mortgage loans from the former savings banks for €3,600 million. The portfolio included 40,000 mortgages worth €6,400 million. In addition, it bought portfolios of property developer loans from Sareb and CaixaBank. Since April 2015, when that operation was closed, Anticipa has worked to recover those loans and the underlying collateral – the repossession of the asset -. During this period, it has signed agreements with 3,000 borrowers, of which 2,400 have resulted in ‘daciones en pago’ – “the handing over of homes in exchange for the cancelation of debt” – and 600 have resulted in the renegotiation of the loan, in such a way that the borrowers can make their mortgage repayments, according to Anticipa’s own summary of its first year of management.

The servicer – which is also responsible for managing the real estate assets of CatalunyaCaixa, now BBVA – bought the portfolio on 15 April 2015 and between then and 30 March 2016, it has closed around 400 operations per month. “We have signed 20 operations per day”, say sources at the entity. “And we have prioritised friendly relationships to enable both parties to reach an agreement”. The entity highlights that this process has been carried out whilst maintaining a good understanding with the platforms of people affected by mortgages (PAH), although they acknowledge that there are certain discrepancies with the PAH in Barcelona, which regards Blackstone as a “vulture” fund, even though it is a long-term real estate investor, which is firmly committed to the rental management business in Spain.

Anticipa highlights that it applies the code of good practice under Spanish legislation, whereby those families who have nowhere to go after a ‘dación en pago’ are offered social housing. In fact, 25% of the borrowers of the 40,000 mortgages pay their monthly instalments on time. Anticipa sends out an invoice each month and collects the corresponding funds. Of the remaining 75%, some (25%) of the borrowers pay intermittently and the rest (50%) do not pay at all. The company prioritises enabling those borrowers who pay intermittently to become regular payers, through the refinancing of their loans. “We apply a partial discount, we amend the term, the interest rate and the loan principal, to reduce the instalment and whereby facilitate the payment”, explains the entity.

Case by case analysis

If the borrower is still unable to pay, he is offered a ‘dación en pago’, and the remaining debt is cancelled in most cases. “Each case is analysed on an individual basis”. Anticipa helps the borrower to find a home if he has to leave or offers him a property to rent “at market price” or by means of “social housing”, as appropriate.

The entity does not rule out mortgage foreclosures when there is no other way of reaching an agreement with the borrower…But, “we have not carried out any evictions”, say sources at the entity…and the objective is to negotiate in order to avoid eviction in all cases”, they add.

Anticipa, led by Eduard Mendiluce…employs 360 people, of which almost 150 are dedicated exclusively to negotiating with borrowers. (…).

Original story: El Periódico (by Max Jiménez Botías and Olga Grau)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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