Deregulated housing markets can attract international investors causing inflation in housing costs and holiday rentals can be far more lucrative than letting to residents and families. By restricting the availability of accommodation, visitor arrivals can be restricted.
Issues arise where there are concentrations of tourism in particular areas and tourism comes to dominate and where there is unlicensed and unregulated accommodation which may cause disturbance and raises issues of health and safety and taxation.
In July 2015, the municipal government in Barcelona suspended the processing of new permits for tourist-accommodation, student-residences and youth-hostel establishments, to analyse the impact of tourist-accommodation activities in all its aspects and to draft a special urban-development plan to regulate it. Ciutat Vella now has a Usage Plan designed to restrict the growth of tourist accommodation, whether hotels or apartments and a Tourist Accommodation Working Group has been tasked to complement municipal efforts to reduce the numbers of unlicensed apartments.
In July 2016 an Emergency Inspection Plan against Illegal Tourist Flats was launched designed to eliminate existing illegal accommodation in the city, with a budget of €1,350,000. The emergency plan includes measures that attempt to tighten the net around illegal tourist flats through various means. These include:
- Detection measures: the creation of a new team of viewers, for greater efficiency in identifying illegal activities and facilitating collaboration with local residents, there is an online complaint form at barcelona.cat/incidències/habitatgesturistics
- Measures for carrying out inspections and issuing fines: These include reinforcing the team of inspectors, more pressure on digital platforms and maximum fines for repeat-offender platforms.
- The city council provides to the tax office information on detected illegal homes for tourist use. 3000 inspections were started due to bank payments to the websites.
- Inter-authority collaboration measures: an agreement with the Generalitat to extend the use of web crawlers and data sharing with Spain’s Tax Authority.
- Regulatory measures: Working bilaterally with the Generalitat to ensure the new Tourism Regulations facilitate inspection work and, among other things, allow a quicker implementation of legal procedures to stop illegal activities.
- Awareness-raising measures: a new website for checking whether or not a tourist flat has a permit, and a communication campaign to foster positive coexistence, with special emphasis on tourist accommodation.
- There is a call reception centre for residents to report problem accommodation units and a social media campaign to engage tourists in making
responsbel chicuesabout where they stay.