• Barcelona mayor says fines doubled to 600,000 euros for tourist rental sites
• City blames illegal tourism rentals for high rents, lack of affordable housing
Barcelona mayor Ada Colau revealed Thursay that the city will proceed to impose fines of 600,000 euros each on global online tourism rental sites Airbnb and Homeaway for listing illegal rental apartments in Barcelona on their sites in violation of a 2012 regional law in Catalonia and city regulations designed to control tourist rentals.
In a radio interview Thursday, Colau said that the problem is not with tourism on the whole in Barcelona, Spain’s second- largest city and regional capital of the northeast region of Catalonia, which derives a significant amount of business and municipal revenue from the millions of tourists who flock to the city each year.
The former anti-evictions activist, who was elected in May 2015 on a platform supported by progressive activists and political parties that includes Spain’s anti-austerity party Podemos (We Can), said the problem is rather that tourism in Barcelona is “out of balance and is impacting the right to (affordable) housing” of local residents. “There are thousands of apartments being listed without permits, without paying taxes and causing negative repercussions on the neighborhood communities,” she said.
With long-term rental prices reportedly having increased an average of 30 percent since Colau took office and neighborhood groups complaining of the noise and other problems caused by unregulated tourism in the city, Colau has been under pressure to get a handle on the problem of unlicensed tourist flats, which she and her administration fault for the lack of affordable housing.