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New Mayor of Barcelona spells good news for housing investment

Jaume Collboni socialist mayor of Barcelona

The new mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni, has said he will review the 30% social housing quota introduced by his predecessor, the far-left Mayoress Ada Colau, which could lead to a return of private investment in house building in the Catalan capital.

After municipal elections in May Barcelona has a new Mayor in the person of Jaume Collboni, from the centre-left Socialist party, who has taken over from Ada Colau and her Barcelona En Comú party, from the hard-left. He leads a minority city government that still relies on Colau’s party for support, along with the PP party from the centre-right. 

Political background

It’s the result of a rather unnatural political deal stitched together to keep former Mayor Xavier Trias out of power after he won the most votes. Colau and co. wanted to keep him out of power because they see him as right-wing, whilst the PP wanted him out because they consider him a Catalan nationalist planning to use Barcelona to advance the pipedream of independence from Spain. So they clubbed together to keep Trias out of the Mayor’s office and voted in Collboni, who won the second highest number of votes on election day by a whisker (just ahead of Colau). Trias is a former Mayor of Barcelona whom Ada Colau ousted in 2015. 

Ada Colau ran Barcelona as Mayoress for eight years leading a minority government that relied on Collboni and his Socialists for support. The tables have turned.

Social housing quota

One of Colau’s most damaging policies was a 30% social housing quota on all new building projects above a certain size. This policy was sold by Colau as a way to increase the supply of affordable housing AND punish developers for all the harm they have done (in her world view all private home-builders are just speculators). Her policy inevitably led to a total collapse of building and renovation in Barcelona, as was loudly predicted by its critics. The city needs more affordable housing, not a collapse in investment.

This week Collboni announced that he will review this policy in the autumn. The local paper La vanguardia reports that “to his understanding, this initiative is not getting the results that were expected in principle, in reality it is disincentivising private initiative.”  I’m sure he knows full well that Colau’s policy was a disaster that killed off the supply of new housing in Barcelona for everyone, affordable or not. However, for political reasons, he’s taking a softly-softly approach to getting rid of it. He is, however, fully committed to rent controls, the threat of which have already destroyed the rental market in Barcelona.

Collboni isn’t going to solve Barcelona’s housing problem because the supply of housing will never satisfy demand, whatever he does. But he can make the situation better or worse. Ada Colau and her sophomoric gang of Marxist fanatics made the problem much worse by demonising developers and private investors, leading to a collapse in housing investment and new home building. It looks like Collboni will try to reverse that policy, which is good news for Barcelona’s housing market.

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