Barcelona plans to expropriate unused plots of private land
Measure aims to ease city’s housing crisis, but opposition complains that local council already owns land not built on
"Barcelona cannot afford to have plots of private land that are not being used," said the city councillor in charge of urbanism, Janet Sanz, this week. “We want to avoid owners and developers holding on to land for speculation purposes, we want it built on,” she added.
With average rents in the Catalan capital soaring –in 2017 alone they went up almost 10%– the city council intends to compile a registry of unused plots of private land with the aim of expropriating them for public use should the owners fail to build on them.
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau on Tuesday signed the decree authorizing the creation of the registry, which will be voted on in the next plenary session of the city council. If the new measure goes ahead, the first expropriations could take place in 2020.
Architectural and cultural heritage sites
Local authorities have the right to seize private plots if they can show that they are inactive. Yet, the measure is not only meant to ensure more homes are built, but is also aimed at property owners with a legal obligation to protect sites of architectural and cultural heritage.
Two years to build
Once the unused plots have been added to the new registry, the owners will be officially informed and given two years to build on the land before it is expropriated. In the case of heritage sites, the council will be able to do conservation work and then bill the owner.
"We want to avoid owners and developers holding on to land for speculation purposes, we want it built on"
Janet Sanz · Barcelona councillor for Urbanism
The city council has so far not said how many empty plots of land that can be built on there are in Barcelona, as it is "information we don’t have right now,” said Sanz, who nevertheless insisted that the figure would be available some time in September.
Cs wants “concrete and effective measures”
Yet, the Ciutadans (Cs) opposition party was critical of the measure, arguing that there is no need for the council to expropriate land: “There are already plots of land that could be built on but it hasn’t been done,” said Cs councilor, Marilén Barceló.
The city council should stop seeking “headlines” and “concern itself with the problems of the citizens,” Barceló said, who asked “where are” the 4,000 new units of social housing pledged by the municipal government at the start of the political term. “We want concrete and effective measures,” said the Cs councilor.
Barcelona's local council has promoted a joint manifesto with other major cities in the world against speculation and calling on state governments to grant them more housing powers.