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Number of tourist apartments in Barcelona 'massive', says European watchdog

Corporate Europe Observatory's Kenneth Haar calls on cities to challenge higher authorities for powers to manage affordable housing problems

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05 August 2019 11:36 AM

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ACN|Barcelona

The number of apartments rented out to tourists in Barcelona is "massive" and out of proportion with the city's population, says the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

Talking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), spokesman for the Brussels-based research and campaign group, Kenneth Haar, pointed the finger at short-term rental platform, Airbnb.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the problems you see in Barcelona with access to affordable housing is related to Airbnb," Haar told ACN.

Given the "massive" number of city apartments rented to tourists, "any strategy that would try to secure affordable housing would have to imply regulation of Airbnb," he added.

The non-profit group, which tracks the "effects of corporate lobbying on EU policy making," has focused attention on corporate privilege in cities, and Airbnb in particular.

"Cities must challenge state and EU"

For Haar, for cities like Barcelona to manage its housing, it "will have to challenge the authority of the Spanish state on such matters, and even the European Union."

Using Berlin as an example of a city that handles its housing problems well, Haar warned that cities cannot "simply accept that decisions like that are made at the higher level." 

Regulation in the German capital has guaranteed thousands of homes for local residents, said Haar, who added that the measures taken by Barcelona so far have been "limited."

Decision making should lie with cities, argues Haar, who warns "there's a very high risk it will be left to people who know nothing and care little about the situation on the ground."

"One of the problems are limited powers, and the other is European law," said Haar, who nevertheless said Barcelona's limiting of licences to Airbnb was a "good first step."

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  • Kenneth Haar, spokesman for the Brussels-based research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) (Blanca Blay/ACN)

  • Kenneth Haar, spokesman for the Brussels-based research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) (Blanca Blay/ACN)

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