23 Jun, 2024 @ 11:15
2 mins read

Barcelona wants to eliminate ALL tourist apartments in 2028: But will it get past the courts?

June 14, 2023, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain: Taxi drivers protest against the EU court ruling against Barcelona's ride-hailing limits, a thirtieth of the taxi licences, violating the companies 'freedom of establishment' contrary to EU law. (Credit Image: © Matthias Oesterle/ZUMA Press Wire)

AT a time when residents of popular destinations across Spain are demanding changes to the country’s tourism model, the Socialist mayor of Barcelona last week announced that licences for around 10,000 tourist apartments in the Catalan capital will be allowed to expire in 2028.

Jaume Collboni said that he was taking this controversial action because of the spiralling cost of property in the city, which is pricing young people in particular out of the market. But will the move pass the scrutiny of the courts?

Under Barcelona’s previous mayor, Ada Colau – who was in power from 2015 to 2023 – a plan to combat the problems that tourism was bringing with it was also approved. That scheme saw a restriction on new hotels, limiting their opening to the outskirts of the city. 

But with that plan came lawsuits from the hotels themselves, and associations from the sector. Some of these cases were successful, according to a report in Spain daily El Pais, prompting the drafting of a second version of the legislation, one that was more robust from a legal point of view. 

Read more: Barcelona will eliminate all tourist apartments in 2028 following local backlash

Association Apartur is preparing legal action against the latest plan to change Barcelona’s tourism model. (Credit Image: © Matthias Oesterle/ZUMA Press Wire)

The drastic measure announced by Mayor Collboni is likely to face similar legal challenges.

Legal sources specialising in the tourism sector told newspaper El Pais that Collboni’s approach is a canny one: rather than creating new legislation that can be taken to the courts, the council will instead simply allow licences to expire without the possibility of renewing them, with the aim of this tourist accommodation returning to residential use. 

But the main opposition Partido Popular (PP) has already started legal action against a move to curb tourist rentals in the whole of Catalunya. Earlier this year, the party filed an appeal at the Constitutional Court against a separate plan from the regional government that allows each municipality to set a limit for the numbers of tourist apartments permitted.

What’s more, the tourism association Apartur is preparing similar legal action against the Barcelona mayor’s latest announcement. 

Its president, Enrique Alcantara, said that the move by Collboni was ‘an expropriation of the right of the owners to exploit their house as tourist housing, which is an acquired right’. 

Apartur is planning to take its case to the European courts.

“It will be slower, but we are working on it,” Alcantara told El Pais

The head of Apartur also pointed out a loophole in the council’s plan: under regional laws, the owners of tourist apartments can request an extension of five years to their licences if they have refurbished their properties. This would mean that many closures would not arrive in 2028, as the mayor has announced, but nearly a full decade from now.

Another source from the sector told the newspaper that there will undoubtedly be a ‘war in the courts’ over the measure, given the business interests involved and revenue not just from the tourist accommodation but also associated spending such as on restaurants, stores and taxis. 

But the same source pointed out that it will be difficult to challenge Collboni’s strategy of ‘not doing anything’. 

“It’s one thing to regulate use [of property] with urban planning tools, but it’s a whole other thing to just do nothing,” the source said. 

Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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