30% of all new homes to be protected housingThe full council has approved two pioneering measures in the Spanish state in defence of the right to housing: protection for 30% of all new-build homes and major renovation projects, and the declaration designating the whole city as an area where the City Council has right of first refusal, the aim being to give the administration preference in the acquisition of buildings and land plots.
Both measures were supported by the municipal groups BComú, GMD, ERC, PSC and CUP – Capgirem Barcelona, as well as the independent councillors Gerard Ardanuy and Juanjo Puigcorbé. The PPC voted against the proposals, while Cs voted in favour of declaring the right of first refusal in the municipality but abstained on the measure to protect 30% of housing.
The reserve of 30% means more public housing, particularly in central neighbourhoods more prone to property speculation and gentrification and where the lack of land makes it difficult to build protected flats. It is estimated that under the new regulations over 50% of new affordable housing will be located in these neighbourhoods.
Preferential purchase right
The measure is accompanied by a declaration designating the whole city as an area where the City Council has right of first refusal. This gives the administration preferential purchase rights on plots of land and buildings, this 30% of protected homes included, in order to boost the pool of public housing around all city districts.
The initiative involves the private sector and will affect new buildings and major renovation projects of more than 600 square metres. Consequently, private property promoters are being made jointly responsible when it comes to guaranteeing dignified and adequate homes.
The reserve of 30% is expected to mean 330 new affordable flats every year, a figure which should help combat abusive price hikes in rents, which make it more difficult to keep community ties intact.
The protected homes will be subject to general regulations, with an estimated 75% of city residents entitled to apply for them. Prices for affordable flats are determined by the Government of Catalonia and at current rates equate to a rent of 512 euros a month for a flat of 80 square metres and 136,400 euros in the case of purchase.
The new regulations respond to calls from entities making a stand for the right to dignified housing, who have voiced public demands to put the brakes on property speculation which drives local residents out of their neighbourhoods. The group of organisations heading the initiative is made up of the Federation of Barcelona Residents’ Associations (FAVB), the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH), the Observatory of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (DESC), the Assembly of Neighbourhoods for Sustainable Tourism (ABTS) and the Tenants’ Union.
Change of housing paradigm in cities
The measures are part of a change in the housing model for major cities and follow the example of large metropolitan cities such as Paris, London and New York, which have successfully been operating policies setting aside affordable housing for years. By approving the measures, Barcelona becomes the first city in the Spanish state to introduce such regulations, representing a step forward in the defence of the right to housing. The move is expected to be replicated in other large cities with the same problems in guaranteeing access to dignifies and adequate homes.
The modification to the General Metropolitan Plan will be applied following definitive approval. In relation to the reserve of 30%, demonstrable cases of building plot purchases made between 1 July 2016 and the date of the measure was initially approved (also July) will be exempt, as will permits applied for before the definitive approval this month (September).
The declaration on the right to first refusal in the city will be applied for six years, with an option for a further six. The measure will be used to halt blatantly speculative purchases, particularly those leading to buildings being acquired by large investment funds.
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