Barcelona’s Latest Affordable Housing Tool: Seize Empty Apartments
By Fergus O'Sullivan. Published in Bloomberg CityLab on 16 July 2020
This week, the city’s housing department wrote to 14 companies that collectively own 194 empty apartments, warning that if they haven’t found a tenant within the next month, the city could take possession of these properties, with compensation at half their market value.
These units would then be rented out by the city as public housing to lower-income tenants, while the companies in question could also face possible fines of between €90,000 and €900,000 ($103,000 and $1,003,000), according to Spanish news outlets.
The plan builds on previous measures in the city to fill empty apartments. Since 2016, it has been legal for municipalities in the Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona, to take control of properties that have been left without tenants for more than two years. The cities can then rent them as affordable housing for a period of between four and ten years before returning them to their owner’s control.
This measure, however, has only ever been used in a few cases, and still requires the city to return the properties. Now, using a legal tool approved by the Catalonia region in December 2019, Barcelona will have expanded power to actually buy the apartments outright by compulsory purchase, at 50% of market rate.
Keywords: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, empty homes, rental market, public housing, census, big landlords, regulation, fines, law