AS rental prices have been soaring prohibitively across Spain, Catalonia is set to be the first to step in and, from February, put controls on just how much landlords can charge.

Ester Capella, the regional minister for land and urban planning, announced that rent controls are to be implemented in 140 municipalities in the autonomous region

The affected municipalities, home to over six million people –  or roughly 80% of Catalonia’s population – include the entire metropolitan area of Barcelona as well as the provincial capitals of Lleida, Tarragona and Girona.

Parts of coastal and mountain regions such as Ripoll, Puigcerdà, Mollerussa, Solsona, and Torelló will also be included.

The move is a response to the urgent housing affordability crisis, particularly in densely populated areas. 

A meeting between Capella and Isabel Rodríguez, Spain’s Minister of Housing culminated in an agreement to finalise and publish the Rental Price Reference Index in the upcoming weeks. 

This index is designed to provide a benchmark for setting rental prices, particularly in areas with high housing demand or where there’s a significant imbalance between supply and demand.

It will be used to officially declare the 140 municipalities as ‘tense zones’, a designation that triggers the rent cap regulation.

Under the new regulations, which will be applied from February, rents for new leases cannot exceed the price set in the last contract over the past five years after annual updates. 

Furthermore, landlords who own more than ten urban residential properties will be restricted from setting rent prices above the established rental index.

The news was met with caution from housing groups.

“It’s slated to come into force in February, but we don’t want to take it for granted either,” said Carme Arcarazo, spokesperson for the Tenants’ Union (el Sindicato de Llogateres). 

“Every month that the regulation does not come into force there are evictions, rent increases, families that have less money and more money for speculation,” she added.

Meanwhile, rental agencies and websites slammed the plans as ‘not good news.’

“There is no place where price control has been beneficial for citizens, especially for those families who need to rent a home starting next month,” said Idealista spokesperson, Francisco Iñareta.

“In all the cities where it has been implemented, the consequences have been the same: shortage of housing, enormous difficulties in access, very selective criteria on the part of the owners and the birth of a black market,” he added.

These concerns were echoed by rival website pisos.com, who expressed concerns about reduced housing availability and increased rental prices due to market uncertainties.

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