Barcelona City Council to forgive fines on illegal tourist apartments if owners put them up for social rent
The City Council of the Catalan capital has announced it will remit 80% of the fine on tourist apartments with no licence located in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella district if the owners put the property up for social housing rent for a minimum of 3 years. Once this period is over, the owner will be able to extend the social rent or pay the remaining 20% of the fine. The City Council explained that the initiative is "a pilot test" in order "to start changing the city's tourist model", as tourists are too concentrated in some areas. This has created some friction with locals, mostly due to some visitors' wild street parties and to the rise in rent prices, as many properties have been transformed into tourist rentals, quite often without a licence. In this vein, the City Council will ask digital platforms such as Airbnb for the identification data of all their rentals in Barcelona. These platforms will be fined for each illegal flat on offer or if they refuse to issue the requested list.
Barcelona (ACN).- The City Council of the Catalan capital announced on Wednesday it will remit 80% of the fine on tourist apartments with no licence located in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella district (Old Town and Barceloneta) if the owners put the property up for social housing rent for a minimum of 3 years. Once this initial period is over, the owner will be able to extend the social rent or pay the remaining 20% of the fine. The City Council told the press that the initiative is "a pilot test" in order "to start changing the city's tourist model", as currently tourists are too concentrated in some specific areas of the city. This has created some friction with locals, mostly due to the wild street parties of some visitors, but also because it has raised the price of rent in the area, as many properties have been transformed into tourist rentals, quite often without the appropriate licence.
In this vein, the City Council will also ask digital platforms such as Airbnb and Booking for the identification data of all their rentals on offer in Barcelona. These platforms will be fined for each illegal flat on offer or if they refuse to issue the requested list, stated Gala Pin, Ciutat Vella's Councillor. A few weeks ago, the Catalan Government already announced it was preparing a decree to regulate these new forms of tourist accommodation. It would be mainly based on a volunteer register and the payment of a small fee to the public authorities when the property is occupied by tourists (between €0.45 and €0.65 per person/night).
As a housing activist, Pin has been present at several neighbourhood demonstrations against the excess of tourists and illegal tourist flats in the Barceloneta neighbourhood. Last summer, several protests took place in this old fishing neighbourhood, midway between the Gothic Quarter, the old harbour and the beachfront. Pin is part of the team of Barcelona's new Mayor Ada Colau, a social activist who led an alternative-left coalition with civic society members and small left-wing parties. This coalition won the elections and is now running the local government, although it was very far from holding an absolute majority in the City Council and was therefore obliged to band together with several other parties.
An initial 330 owners could have their fine cancelled by putting their flat up for social rent
According to Pin, 330 owners of such illegal tourist apartments could have 80% of the fine they received cancelled if they transform their property into a social housing rental for a minimum period of 3 years. The average amount of the fines issued is €15,000. Pin emphasised that the City Council guarantees the owners that once the flat is no longer available for social housing, they will get their property back in the same condition in which they let it out. However, she did not give details concerning whether the City Council will pay for reparation, cleaning or painting work.
Tourists will be able to file complaints against illegal rentals
Besides the requesting of flat details from digital platforms and the issuing of fines if illegal rentals are detected, the City Council will also launch a communication campaign targeting tourists. The campaign will raise awareness of this situation among visitors, who are mostly unaware of the issue and the consequences it has for local residents but also for them, as tourists do not have right of complaint if something goes wrong during their stay. In addition, it will also provide them with the tools to file complaints if the apartment in which they were hosted is illegal.
According to Gerardo Pisarello, First Deputy Mayor, in charge of Employment, Economy and Strategic Planning, the objective of the measures is to make apartments that operate without a licence or being properly registered disappear. They also aim to better regulate tourist activities and at the same time "strengthen the right to housing". The City Council "wants to avoid Barcelona becoming a cradle of a new speculative bubble, after that of construction", stated Pisarello. The Deputy Mayor also stressed that the local government now wants to exercise "pubic leadership" in shaping the city's tourist model with "transparency", as opposed to the previous government, he added.