Barcelona Cracks Down on Empty Homes, Tourist Lets


Barcelona City Council has threatened to seize 194 empty apartments, revoked the licences 597 of tourist flats and told 6,000 others to cease letting activity immediately.

The Spanish council is cracking down on landlords and tourist lets in a bid to improve the residential housing pool as the country battles Covid-19 which has infected 265,000 people—28,422 fatally.

The local government said it was taking “extraordinary measures to tackle Covid-19 in the housing sphere”.

The council sent a letter threatening expropriation to 14 major landlords who have had the dwellings empty for more than two years as part of the Decree 17/2019 of the Generalitat, which was accepted in late 2019.

Ten other “large societies” on the government of Catalonia’s official register are expected to get a letter of notice in the coming weeks.

In recent weeks, Barcelona has also undertaken proceedings to fine the Azora investment fund between €90,000 and €900,000 for failing to rent 20 flats within the building and giving disproportionate price hikes for existing tenants.

Barcelona residents say no to "Monopoly man" and big companies owning properties.
▲ Barcelona residents in Sant Andreu’s old quarter campaigned to stay in their homes which were eventually purchased for the public housing pool.

A further 597 tourist let operators with irregularities in their application had their licences revoked; 5,700 illegal lets were removed from the market and 1,982 flats were already in the regular housing pool.

Barcelona councillor for housing Lucía Martín González said they were working to shift the housing system so it was seen as a right not a commodity and had recently purchased eight properties to add to public housing stock.

“For more than two years, the residents had been organising to stop the evictions that had already begun and to prevent the sale of the homes that would have ended up making them out of the house,” González said on Instagram.

Housing unaffordability has been exacerbated by Covid-19 globally, with unemployment on the rise and moratoriums on evictions made commonplace.

Even before the pandemic hit, on Australian shores there were already calls to review Victoria’s empty home tax—after the state raised $5.4 million from a possible $120 million last financial year—while looking into the rest of the country’s empty houses and units.

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