24 April 2018 – El País
From July onwards, homeowners in Palma, on the Balearic Island of Mallorca, will not be allowed to rent out their apartments to tourists. The capital of the popular Mediterranean destination has adopted a pioneering measure, which will see the definitive prohibition of tourist flats right across the city. The local government team – a leftist alliance between the Socialist Party (PSOE), the local group Més per Mallorca and the anti-austerity Podemos – has taken this decision after commissioning several studies on the matter, which revealed that the supply of unlicensed tourist flats increased by 50% between 2015 and 2017 to reach 20,000 beds across the city. In Palma, which is Spain’s eighth-largest city by population, only 645 properties used for short-term vacation rentals have proper licenses.
The government team will approve initial holiday rental zoning plans at a meeting on Thursday, which will then be subjected to public scrutiny before being put to a final vote at a council session in July. At that point, tourists seeking this kind of accommodation will no longer be allowed to rent apartments in multi-family residential housing. Instead, they will only be able to stay in detached, single-family homes, which are being left outside the ban. Yet even these properties will be off limits if they are located on protected rural land, near the airport, or in non-residential areas such as industrial estates.
The move follows a reform of tourism legislation by the regional parliament of the Balearic Islands in August last year. That reform banned vacation rentals in apartments but left it up to local authorities to decide which neighbourhoods to apply it in. In the end, the city of Palma has decided to consider the entire municipality a “single zone” and so the ban will apply in all parts of town. The decision is meant “to protect residents,” said mayor Antoni Noguera.
Studies commissioned by city officials show that 48% of tourist apartments are offered for seven to eight months of the year, meaning they are not available for long-term residential rentals. “There is a parallel between the evolution of vacation rentals and the rise in rental prices,” said José Hila, the local chief of city planning. Rent in Palma has soared by 40% in recent years, making it the second most expensive Spanish city after Barcelona for residents who rent.
“Tourist accommodation affects the makeup of buildings and neighbourhoods, and it also affects social harmony,” said Hila. A report by the Citizen Ombudsman’s Office shows a rise in the number of complaints filed by residents due to problems with tourists who use these apartments, typically related to noise. There were 42 complaints in 2014 and 192 in 2017.
Mayor Noguera is convinced that this measure, which is pioneering in Spain, will set the standard to be followed by other cities. “Palma is a bold and decisive city. We have agreed this on the basis of the general interest, and we believe that it will create a trend in other cities when they see that finding a balance is key.” said the mayor. “All European cities are being transformed from one day to the next by this type of offer,” said planning chief Hila.
Currently, in the Balearic capital, there is a supply of around 11,000 tourist rental beds, of which 645 have licences, all for family homes. Before the new regional legislation was approved in August, the number of beds amounted to 20,000 but the high fines established by the law – of up to €400,000 – led to the withdrawal of adverts from users of many of the large platforms (…).
Original story: El País (by Lucía Bohórquez)
Translation: Carmel Drake