Barcelona City Hall has announced plans to restrict tourist rental licences in the city-centre to apartment blocks exclusively dedicated to tourist lettings, in new regulations to be introduced in the next six months. There will also be a moratorium on new licences for the next year.
Friction between local residents and tourists staying in city apartments, not to mention pressure from the powerful hotel lobby, lies behind this move to reign in holiday lettings in the Catalan capital.
Tourist apartments often cause problems for local residents bothered by rowdy holiday-makers and the comings and goings of strangers. By separating tourist rental flats from residential apartments, the local authorities hope to solve a problem that has been growing with Barcelona’s increasing popularity as a tourist destination.
Private homes rented out to tourists are defined as tourist use homes or “uso turistico”, as opposed to properties built with planning permission as tourist apartments or “apartamentos turisticos”. The difference between the two categories is small but significant, and often confuses property investors. The new regulations concern tourist use rental flats.
When the new regulations come out, tourist rental licences will be limited to apartments in buildings exclusively given over to tourist lettings, which will limit the supply of new licences dramatically.
There will be a moratorium on tourist licences in the city centre for the next 12 months, whilst preparing the new regulations to be introduced in the next six months.
“We don’t want everyone with an empty flat to convert it into a holiday rental,” town-hall spokeswoman Sònia Recasens told the local press. “We have to professionalise the sector,” she added.
Press reports suggest that, in future, tourist rental licences might be granted to entire buildings, rather than individual properties. It also seems that might be exceptions made in specific cases.
The districts affected by the moratorium and draft legislation are as follows: Eixample, Poble Sec, Hostafrancs, Sant Gervasi-Galvany, Putxet-Farró, Vila de Gràcia, Gràcia Nova, Camp de l’Arpa, Poblenou, Diagonal Mar, and the areas around Hospital de Sant Pau, Sants railway station, and Park Güell.
A freeze on new rental licences is already in force in the Old Town / Gothic Quarter, where 614 licences were issued in total before the ban on new licences. The licences can be bought and sold, and are not linked to a specific property.
There are 7,854 licences in Barcelona with 30,000 bed capacity, most of them in the Eixample (3,721), Sant Marti (903) and Gracia (894).
Other political groups grudgingly welcomed the move, though some suggested it was too little too late.
Lamenting the rise in tourist rental flats from 2,349 in 2010 to 7,854 this year, Janet Sanz, a left-wing town councillor, blamed it on the current city hall administration whilst pointing out that cities like New York have banned tourist rentals because of the problems they create for local residents.
Maria Assumpció Vilà, Barcelona’s “Sindica de Greuges” (official citizens’ rights watchdog) called on the town hall to limit the number of tourist licences to ensure an adequate supply of rental properties for Barcelona’s residents.
Barcelona’s housing stock is under pressure from hotels and tourist rentals, reducing the supply of homes for rent to the people who actually live in Barcelona.
The city authorities also plan to crack down hard on illegal tourist rentals, and inform local residents on their rights, and what to do in the event of problems with tourist rentals in their building.
Companies managing tourist rental flats will have to be available 24 hours a day to respond to clients and residents, and will have to respond to complaints from neighbours within 30 minutes or risk losing their licences.
Owners and webs will have to publish the tourist rental licence number in future with all advertising.
There is a growing backlash against tourism in Barcelona, the subject of this hour-long documentary called Bye Bye Barcelona, which also deals with the question of tourist rental apartments (starting at minute 44.20).