Society 10/12/2021

Barcelona adapts hotel plan to rulings and will allow more tourist apartments in Ciutat Vella

The municipal government reaches a consensus over tourist accommodation but the debate on rooms to let remains open

3 min
A room in a shared flat in Barcelona

BarcelonaFour years after Barcelona City Council decreed a moratorium on tourist flats, landlords who had already secured a license to turn buildings into tourist accommodation in the old town will be allowed to go ahead with the conversion. This is one of the main changes in the new draft of the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation (PEUAT), which was presented today by Barcelona City Council. But it is not the only one.

In fact, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau's team has been forced to make major tweaks to the draft because, in recent months, several court rulings have overturned key aspects of the initial plan. Thus, the new PEUAT – which regulates tourist accommodation in the Catalan capital – will also incorporate an economic and financial study to support its actions. This measure responds to the complaint of the hoteliers, advanced by ARA, who claimed that Colau's plans were not based on economic studies. The courts agreed with them.

In addition, the reform also leaves out a requirement that hotels in the centre reduce the number of beds by 20% if they carry out a refurbishment. "This can only be done through the Catalan law and not a special plan like ours," admitted Urbanism councillor Janet Sanz, during the presentation of the new plan. The courts have also thrown out the possibility of building small hotels (about 50 beds, according to Sanz) in streets between six and eight metres wide. Streets will have to be at least eight metres wide for there to be a hotel.

Beyond the changes forced by court rulings, the discrepancies between the groups that make up the municipal government, En Comú and the PSC, and the allegations raised by associations and guilds have also led to changes in the initial text, presented in January. One of the most controversial points was accommodation for tourist use.

The new wording extends the perimeter of the "reduction area" and, therefore, if a tourist apartment closes in this area, a new one cannot take its place. It also eliminates the pool of 46 unassigned licenses in this area. These tourist apartments may not be replaced.

The new accommodation regulation will not allow more tourist accommodation in 22@ and student residences will only be allowed in zones 3 and 4, not in the city centre.

Rooms to be regulated by ordinance

The most heated point of debate between the socialists and En Comú was the debate on rooms to let in shared accomodation. Sanz has endeavored to emphasise that they "are still prohibited in a general way" with some exceptions: for example, that the owner of a tourist apartment revokes his license in order to live in the flat and, at the same time, wishes to rent out a room to complement their income. Therefore, the prohibition of renting rooms to tourists for under 31 days is still in force.

However, the debate about the rooms does not end here. The first deputy mayor, Jaume Collboni, and the deputy mayor for Urbanism, Janet Sanz, have clarified that the coalition government "will continue to work" on this issue through municipal ordinances. "Once a consensus is reached and it is transformed into an ordinance we will review the PEUAT", Sanz clarified.

All in all, the implementation of the PEUAT – which will now have to be approved in a committee and is expected to reach the municipal plenary next December 23 – is a step forward that buries part of the tensions between government partners. "The free bar [on tourism] is history," said Sanz, who explained that with this tool "it is under control and the need to balance tourism and make it sustainable is in the council's hands". "We have to make a city that can be visited, but also that can be live in," stressed the deputy mayor. "We have worked hard to achieve consensus and now we are presenting a useful tool for the city," said Collboni.