Catalan government intends to extend rent contracts

Reform of Spanish law needed to fix rent problem, says Barcelona mayor Ada Colau

The minister for territory and sustainability Damià Calvet during an interview with ACN on June 8 2018 (by Andrea Zamorano)
The minister for territory and sustainability Damià Calvet during an interview with ACN on June 8 2018 (by Andrea Zamorano) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 10, 2018 05:57 PM

The minister of territory and sustainability, Damià Calvet, announced that the Catalan government is to put forth a law to extend rent contracts “at a minimum” for five years. In 2013, the Spanish legislature lowered the length of rent contracts from five to three years, which, according to Calvet has “put on the breaks for the continuity of people and families” in their homes, right at a moment “when prices went up.”

Catalan  government to focus on its ‘exclusive competencies’ on the matter

“It’s a dramatic situation that we have to be able to reverse,” insisted the minister on June 8, adding that this is why the government “intends to set in motion a legislation to lengthen the minimum time for a rent contract” to “a minimum” of five years. “We believe this is a sufficient length of time,” he said, while also opening the door to extending it if deemed necessary.

When asked about a possible conflict of competencies with the Spanish legislation on urban leasing, Calvet assured that the Catalan government wants to “make the most of” the “exclusive” competencies that it holds. Regards the new potential law, Calvet also advanced that he’s already given the “task” of “starting to work on it immediately” to his team. “We would have already done it,” the minister specified, “if there hadn’t been the intervention [of Article 155 by the Spanish government].”

Changes should be made on a State-wide level, responds Barcelona mayor

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, known for her campaigning on a platform of affordable housing and her past as an activist against evictions due to mortgages, also spoke about housing in Catalonia this weekend. Colau insisted that the "quickest" and “most efficient” formula to regulate the length of rent contracts and to avoid an “abusive rise” in rent prices is actually to “reform Spain's law on urban leasing.”

Colau also addressed Damià Calvet’s statements on the government’s plans to put forth their own laws on housing. “Any proposal that can be set in motion on a Catalan level that goes towards giving more stability to rent contracts is welcomed,” she started, in statements made on June 9. “However,” she added, “currently the rent depends on a State-wide regulation and this debate is already at the Spanish Congress.”

Fight on a neighborhood-level

While a fight to better the housing situation takes place in the upper levels of Catalan and Spanish government sessions, there’s also a struggle ongoing on the level of individual neighborhoods. In the center of Barcelona, near the train station, the infamous and historic La Model prison was shut down. And the rent prices in the neighborhood around it – and subsequently, the residents – have suffered as a consequence.

Juan Gómez, who lives in the neighborhood, explained that since the prison was closed in 2017, “everyone's vulture funds descended on Barcelona like a plague of locusts.” Where he lives, specifically, “the entire block” was bought by a French "vulture fund" called L’Abeille. “It wants to kick all us residents out,” said Gómez, “and transform this ancient building into luxury apartments so that only rich people and tourists may come.”

Originally, Gómez said, the residents were happy that the prison inmates left because it was “a thirty-year-long vindication.” Gomez said, though, that now those living in the neighborhood are “the prisoners,” and, had they known this would be the outcome, they “wouldn’t have asked.” The outcome, said Gomez, is that “rent prices may have easily doubled” or that rent contracts aren’t being renewed in other to “empty the Building and turn it into luxury apartments.”

Evictions for renters

This is a different problem to the situation half a decade ago. When Ada Colau was an activist in the grassroots community, the issue at hand was evictions due to unpaid mortgages. Now, however, it has shifted to happening to renters, not home-owners. There were 2,591 evictions in the Catalan capital in the last year according to the General Council of the Judiciary (GCJ), and 85% of which were due to unpaid rent, according to the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH).