Barcelona’s city council has ordered the closure of 4,148 illegal tourist apartments in the past two years. According to the local authority, some 2,355 of these apartments have been taken off the market, with 2,129 of them closed down voluntarily and another 226 shut down by inspectors. According to the councilor in charge of housing, Janet Sanz, Barcelona “has brought the illegal activity under control.”
Ada Colau’s government launched its campaign against illegal tourist apartments in July 2016. Between then and May this year, the council’s inspection team has grown from 20 inspectors to 100 people devoted to dealing with illegal apartment rentals. In this time, said Sanz, the council has acted “boldly against this practice that is corrosive to the city and that puts the social harmony of city neighbourhoods at risk.”
In the past two years, the council has investigated 10,635 cases of illegal apartments and imposed some 5,503 fines, double the numbers for the 2014 to 2016 period. Meanwhile, the number of closure orders it has issued has multiplied by six, as in the two years before the campaign was launched there were only 663 such cases.
Some people believe tourist flats contribute to increasing rent prices, and demand more social housing from the authorities. That was the case of some demonstrators on Thursday, who complained about the Catalan government auctioning off around 50 flats instead of using them for social housing. Some tensions arose between protesters and the police, but the auction went on. The authorities have said that around 3 million euros made in the auction will be used to buy homes for social renting.