Last Wednesday, the Government of Catalonia, through the Barcelona Urban Development Subcommittee, finally approved a modification to Barcelona’s Metropolitan General Plan that obliges residential developments of more than 600 m2, whether newly created or completely refurbished, to allocate 30% of the area for public housing.

The measure has now passed all procedures and will enter into force in the coming days, once published in the Official Journal of the Government of Catalonia.

It arises from the demands of associations such as the Federation of Neighbourhood Associations of Barcelona, the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages, the DESC Observatory, the Assembly of Neighbourhoods for Sustainable Tourism and the Tenants’ Union, with the interest to develop initiatives to increase the city’s stock of affordable flats and guarantee the right to access to housing.

With this measure, Barcelona City Council will be able to increase the affordable housing stock by 330 new flats each year and will guarantee the correct distribution of flats throughout the city. In this way, more than 50% of new affordable housing will be located in central neighbourhoods, which are where official housing is most needed and where people are suffering most from gentrification and neighbourhood expulsion.

On the basis of the access requirements established by Catalan regulations, 75% of Barcelona’s population will be able to apply for housing, and prices will be affordable: according to the general regime, a flat of 80 m2 costs around 510€ per month if it is rented and 136,000€ if it is for sale.

The whole city is also declared an “area with the right of first refusal”. This allows the City Council the right of preferential purchase in the purchase and sale of certain buildings or plots of land in order to thus avoid speculation.

Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona said: “Today is a historic day that marks a before and after in the defence of the right to housing and puts limits on the unbridled speculation that has been suffered for too long in the city and in the State. Citizens have been saying for some time that courageous policies are needed”, she pointed out, adding that the new regulations are also a “very clear message” to those who devote themselves to the real estate business, which is “legal and legitimate, but which has to be undertaken on the basis of co-responsibility”.

The 30% obligation will have to be fulfilled in all new licenses that are processed since the final approval. It will not apply to licenses presented during the two years following the entry into force of the rule that accredits transactions linked to the new promotion made between July 1, 2016 and the initial approval of the measure.  The new instrument will serve to stop clearly speculative operations that lead to neighbourhood expulsion and black market operations, and to protect apartment blocks from acquisition by investment funds.