Catalonia’s rent cap law under threat as Spanish government considers appeal
Praised by housing activists, the measure would be put on hold should Madrid challenge its constitutionality
The Spanish government is considering an appeal against Catalonia’s rent cap law, promoted by housing rights activists as a much-needed step towards keeping ever-increasing rent prices at bay, on the basis that it is unconstitutional.
Passed by lawmakers in the Catalan parliament last September, the measure was subsequently taken to the Constitutional Court by the conservative People’s Party — however, an appeal by the Spanish cabinet would automatically put the law on hold until a ruling is issued.
Asked about the possibility of challenging the bill, Spain’s Territorial Policy minister, Miquel Iceta, said on Wednesday that he had the "political, moral, and legal obligation" to do so if he believed Catalonia had overstepped its regional powers.
The deadline to appeal the law ends on June 22, nine months after it came into force.
"If I or my legal advisers conclude that a law oversteps a region’s powers, I have the political, moral, and legal obligation to challenge it"
Miquel Iceta · Spain's Territorial Policy minister
The main tenants’ rights association behind the law, the Sindicat de Llogateres, has called Iceta’s remarks "worrying news" for "thousands of families who benefited from the regulation over the past months, particularly for those who are waiting to sign new contracts."
"It would be an unprecedented attack on citizens’ rights and a democratic fraud," the organization said in a press release, accusing the Socialist party of breaking the government deal reached with its coalition partners Unidas Podemos, which included passing a Spain-wide regulation of rent prices.
From 2013 to 2019, rent prices in Catalonia increased by 36%. In Barcelona, the rise was even more drastic: 43%, or an average of €297.25 per apartment, over the same period.
How does the rent cap law work?
The rent cap affects 61 cities and towns with over 20,000 inhabitants and with "tense housing markets." This includes the major cities of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. All 61 of these municipalities have seen average rent prices increase by at least 20% between 2014 and 2019.
In these areas where affordable housing is scarce, the law dictates that rents must be determined by the Catalan Housing Agency's Average Price Index. Relevant information on the size and the year buildings were built can be looked up online at the Spanish ‘catastro’ land registry website to see how rent prices compare to others in the area.