Barcelona Mayor lobbies EU leaders to make city life more affordable

Ada Colau leads network of cities campaigning for three-point plan to cut rent prices, prioritizing regeneration over gentrification

Ada Colau speaking after the Eurocities group meeting in Brussels
Ada Colau speaking after the Eurocities group meeting in Brussels / Daniel Wittenberg

Daniel Wittenberg | Barcelona

March 21, 2019 05:12 PM

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has called for a European tax on property speculation as part of a "rescue plan" to help vulnerable urban areas.

Speaking at a meeting of European mayors in Brussels before the heads of government summit, Colau argued for a three-pronged approach to fighting gentrification, which she believes is putting "city life under threat" in the European Union.

Right to housing

The long-time campaigner for the right to housing is proposing to make it less lucrative to buy property in the hope of making a profit – a practice which contributes to rising house prices.

She hopes the new tax could come accompanied with a ban on EU countries issuing permanent residency to individuals who invest in expensive property – known as 'golden visas' – and an enlarged fund for urban regeneration projects.

Colau, who leads the global alliance of 'Cities for Adequate Housing' with support from mayors in London, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam, urged EU leaders to adopt these "innovative" and "brave" measures to halt rising property prices in cities.

According to the Barcelona mayor, housing is a primary cause of social exclusion in Europe.

Coordinated strategy

Rent prices in the Catalan capital have stabilized since a sharp rise in 2017, which was widely blamed on a boom in tourist rentals and prompted the City Hall to launch a crackdown on unregistered holiday rentals.

Now Colau is looking to Europe for a coordinated strategy to lower prices and combat wider social exclusion, and has channeled her ideas through the Eurocities network, the largest political grouping bringing together cities on the continent.

Changing the rules

While in Brussels, Colau also took part in a panel on women's rights and the gender pay gap, highlighting the importance of female role models in order to counter sexist stereotypes.

"Politics must be feminized not only for fairness but also to change the rules of the game," she said. "Women who are in public office have a responsibility to give a voice to the invisible."