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Barcelona plans to charge owners of empty homes

Barcelona City Hall (Ayuntamiento)
Barcelona City Hall (Ayuntamiento)

The municipal government of Barcelona has announced plans to hit owners of empty homes in the city with a new charge.

According to local press reports, Barcelona City Hall has provisionally approved a plan to hit owners of empty homes in the city with a new administrative charge (tasa in Spanish) of €633, followed up with further fines of €286 for every notification issued to owners of empty homes. City Hall will present this provisional plan to the Economy Commission this week for approval.

City Hall justifies this new charge on the grounds that it covers the bureaucratic cost of investigating homes that are left “permanently unoccupied without justification for two years or more”. They claim they just shifting the cost of the bureaucracy from the public purse to the owners of empty homes.

Investigations into empty homes may or may not end in a fine, but the new administrative fee will be charged regardless, unless proceedings turn out to be unjustified. I wouldn’t be surprised if that means they charge anyway, then pay you back some time later if you press your case and it turns out they were unjustified.

In a press conference last week city officials explained that this is all part of their strategy to “guarantee the right to housing.” The idea is to dissuade owners from leaving their properties unoccupied and send a “clear message” that this municipal government, led by left-wing Mayoress Ada Colau, is working to support the right to housing.

They may call it an ‘administrative fee’ but it’s basically a fine for owning an empty home in Barcelona, despite claims by Gerardo Pisarello, Colau’s right-hand man, that the measure is intended to “dissuade, not punish”.

⇒ City Hall press release (in Catalan)

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