BARCELONA: Tourist rental licence ban extended as opposition politicians cry foul

Mayoress Ada Colau (left) chairing a municipal event on housing.

Mayoress Ada Colau (left) chairing a municipal event on housing.

In the teeth of bitter criticism from local opposition parties, City Hall has approved new measures to avoid issuing new tourist rental licences in Barcelona until definitive tourist accommodation regulations are passed.

Last Friday afternoon the City Government (Ajuntament de Barcelona), run by Mayoress Ada Colau and her ‘Barcelona en Comú’ party, approved a ‘Special Urban Plan’ to regulate tourist rentals in Barcelona, in effect banning new licences until further notice.

The measure was forced through in the teeth of bitter criticism from all parties bar the Socialist Party, which is negotiating a coalition agreement with Barcelona en Comú. Some opponents described the way the plan was passed as “blackmail”, others as “coercion”.

Colau gave the city council the choice of either approving her plan or facing a tsunami of new licence applications when the current moratorium expires in a month’s time. Opposition parties felt they were being forced into backing the plan without a realistic alternative, and without any public consultation.

With 9,600 tourist rental licences currently valid in the city, the new rules mean that, for the time being, a tourist rental licence can only be granted if an old one expires, and only in peripheral districts where there is little demand. Furthermore, no licences will be granted for properties that are already exist as residential dwellings, in order to “preserve the right of people to a home, rest, and privacy”, which is a roundabout way of banning all new tourist rental licences.

“The plan damages and criminalises the [tourist rental] activity and takes no account of the positive aspects of these flats, which do exist,” says Koldo Blanco of the opposition party Ciutadans (Citizens). Others railed against “incompetent administration”, whilst the anti-capitalist far-left CUP party complained the plan doesn’t go far enough to ban all tourist rentals everywhere.

In defence of the city administration, Janet Sanz, the councilor for urban planning, pointed out that Barcelona is “the first big city to fine digital platforms that offer illegal flats.”

The new ban will be in force until the final approval of a ‘Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation’, a draft of which has been passed by City Hall, and is now going through public consultation.