Tourist rentals of rooms in Barcelona: legalise or ban?

The commons and ERC reject this type of accommodation. The PSC and the rest of the groups, which have a majority in the plenary, are in favour of authorising them. There is also an opinion war in the business world
The municipal groups of Barcelona City Council are divided on the regulation of the rental of rooms to tourists for a period of less than 31 days.

In the plenary session, those in favour of legalisation have a majority and the issue divides the two parties in the government: the Commons, who defend the ban, and the Socialists, who advocate for it with conditions. There is also no consensus among the business community.

Renting rooms to tourists in residential buildings was illegal until summer 2020. Then, the Government approved a decree allowing town councils to regularise this practice. The deputy mayor for urban planning, Janet Sanz (BComú) has made it clear several times that she is not in favour of this and that her priority is to "guarantee the right to housing".

On the contrary, the councillor for tourism, Xavier Marcè (PSC), assures that this activity also has "a social component" since low-income households' rental income supplements their salary. The councillor predicts that there will eventually be an agreement.
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The opposition groups lament the lack of unity in the government, whose differences have intensified since last spring on issues such as the expansion of El Prat Airport and the Hermitage. ERC, the party with the most councillors, agrees with Sanz and predicts that legalising shared rooms will increase the price of housing.

"We are not against tourist uses, but their priority now is to contain rents", says republican councillor Eva Baró. She believes that "the first thing the municipal government should do is to clarify its position".

"No major European city has explicitly prohibited it, it would be a debatable measure from a legal point of view, we will see if there are disputes and what the courts say about it," says Junts Jordi Martí Galbis, a councillor for Junts Jordi Galbis. In his opinion, "the municipal government has the obligation to regulate" the sector and accuses the Commons of "aligning itself with the hotel lobby".


Trabajo, Josep Sánchez Llibre, and Mayor Ada Colau. He handed her a document with several proposals, including the "eradication of all illegal economic activities in the city", such as renting rooms to tourists.

On this point, the employers' association of large Catalan companies agrees with the Gremi d'Hotels. "Home-sharing is not our competence, but it harms coexistence, makes access to housing more difficult and also affects the quality of tourism, and the three things together contribute to the growing rejection of tourism," explains its director general, Manel Casals.

Casals believes that it is "nonsense" that the Catalan capital has gone in six years from promoting a hotel moratorium, which derailed the arrival of the luxury Four Seasons chain - which ended up in Madrid - to regulating shared rooms. The director stresses that all politicians say that the quality of tourism in the city must be increased, and he demands that they take measures to make this possible.

According to Veïns i Amfitrions de Catalunya, there are between 2,000 and 3,000 families in the city who rent rooms to tourists, 500 of whom are members of this organisation.

One of its leaders, José Luis Rodríguez, stresses that none of them is a "multi-owner" and recalls that the Government's regulation makes it clear that this activity can only be carried out by private individuals in their usual residence. Rodríguez demands that the City Council be able to carry out a pilot test between 800 and 1,000 flats to demonstrate that this practice "does not affect the price of the flats".

Enrique Alcántara, president of the Association of Tourist Apartments of Barcelona (Apartur), assures that his organisation "does not see the existence of this type of accommodation as a bad thing" "if a maximum number is determined" and its territorial distribution is limited. "It is a reality that exists and to prohibit it so as not to have to inspect it is an approach that we don't quite understand," he adds.

A challenge for big cities

The debate is not exclusive to Barcelona. The association that brings together the hotels of New York "follows very closely" what European cities are doing, says its president, Vijay Dandapani.

"They are legal here, but they must always be on residential land; the residents' association must authorise this activity and have a separate entrance," he points out. "Only Boston and Santa Monica have managed to put limits on the platforms," he points out.

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