Carme Trilla: "The rent does not go up more where there are tourist flats, it goes up where there is no offer"

Custodio Pareja

Economist Carme Trilla has spent a lifetime dedicated to studying the housing sector in Catalonia. She has a long history in housing policies, both in the public and private spheres.

Economist Carme Trilla has spent a lifetime dedicated to studying the housing sector in Catalonia. With a long history in housing policies, both in the public sphere (Secretary of Housing of the Generalitat of Catalonia between 2003 and 2010 and responsible for Law 18/2007 on the Right to Housing), and in the private sphere (from the Foundation Hàbitat3), Trilla is also president of the Barcelona Housing Observatory (O-HB), an organization in which the City Council, the Metropolitan Area (AMB), the Provincial Council and the Generalitat participate, created to have a database, which until now did not exist. , with which we can design policies adjusted to real housing needs in Barcelona and its entire province.

The expert speaks with idealista/news about how housing has evolved in Spain in the last 15 years, whether affordable housing has been added or not, what the last eight years have been like in Barcelona with Ada Colau at the helm, or what the solutions are. that he proposes to begin creating a solid public housing stock.

Let's imagine that I am a person who knows nothing about real estate. How would you explain to me the current situation of this sector in Spain?

We are experiencing a significant problem of difficulty in accessing housing, especially in the most urban and metropolitan areas, where we have a lot of demand and need for housing at affordable prices, and a lack of adequate supply for families and young people who want to become emancipated. This is the fundamental problem.

And if we zoom in on Barcelona, how is the sector?

Well, it is one of the most critical areas because the lack of supply, compared to a very important demand, means that prices have skyrocketed, both in purchases and rentals. And renting continues to be the first option for people who want to access the housing market and who do not have the financial freedom to buy.

Barcelona, specifically, has been under the leadership of Ada Colau, the public enemy of the real estate sector, for 8 years. What inheritance does she believe she leaves behind?

It is not so much that there has been a government with specific characteristics, but that since 2009 we have been very marked by the problem of evictions and the legacy of the 2008 crisis. This has meant that a series of public administrations have had to deal with emergencies and dedicate efforts to helping families who lost their home, which is the most serious thing that can happen to someone.

     “It is not enough to attack housing emergencies: we must do basic work”

Housing policy has been focused on the emergency, leaving aside providing society with new affordable housing. And now a policy of depth is needed, to negotiate with the owner and to focus on the structural damage and solve it. It is not enough to attack housing emergencies: we must do basic work.

Has she done as much for public and affordable housing as she believes she has, or does the numbers on the table break the myth?

What I can say is that Barcelona's figures are low, just as they are in Catalonia as a whole, but also in Spain. The officially protected housing has disappeared. We have to get the machinery going again. There has been a blurring and distortion of what it means to produce public housing in Barcelona, but also in other cities.

Collboni has given him the task of amending one of the greatest 'achievements' of Ada Colau's mandate, the 30% reserve for public housing in new developments and rehabilitations. How is she progressing?

We have done field work in the last three months of 2023 and I believe that a highly agreed document has been created with all the organizations that have to build housing. Now it is on the mayor's table, and he is the one who must decide how he negotiates it with all the actors involved in the production of housing in Barcelona. It will move forward, but with modifications that will make it more agile and viable, and which we believe will be a consensus agreement among all.

Many modifications had been proposed to make the 30% reservation in new developments viable in different ways, but to carry them out there were difficult issues of an urban planning nature to solve, since one of the proposals was that if the reservation was not made In one development, it could be done in another in the same geographical area, and that required very complicated urban planning, so we have tried to simplify it. And they are also thinking about an organization that can collaborate with the promoters so that, if that 30% cannot be done in one place, it can be done in another and continue respecting deadlines. The idea is that it be something simple and efficient, but above all that it helps add public and affordable housing.

The new mayor's objective is to “mobilize as much land as possible.” How is it achieved?

It is difficult, since urban development processes are slow. This is the most worrying issue, achieving greater speed in all land development processes, urban planning license permits... there is important work to do to give credibility to the objectives that are set.

     “Officially protected housing has disappeared”

What do you think of the statement “the rent goes up more where there are tourist apartments”?

I disagree. Since 2017, at the Barcelona Metropolitan Observatory we have been saying that the rise in prices is due to insufficient supply. Obviously, if the homes in a specific place are used for tourist rentals, it will influence the supply to be reduced. But unfortunately the desire to raise prices is conditional on there being a lot of demand, and that is what is happening.

Do you think that Colau's ideology has contaminated the rest of Spain and has broken, in some way, the tendency to opt for renting in a more cultural way compared to buying?

Now in Spain there is talk of renting, and it is accepted. The dynamics of our country has changed, since previously it was thought that access to housing only existed through purchase. Now we have seen that, after the experience of the real estate bubble and the few financial facilities, there has been a retraction in the decision to buy a home and it has rebounded into a strong desire to rent. It is true that the idea that rent is needed, and affordable, is contradictory with measures that may impact the rental supply.

What do you think is the solution, at the state level, to end the housing problem and make it much more accessible?

I am in favor of concertation. All sanctioning and coercive measures seem to me to be a bad system, except for behaviors that are considered truly objectionable or criminal. Otherwise, what needs to be done is for the public sector to agree with the private sector. If 98% of the rental offer in Spain is private, what needs to be done is reach agreements with them. I also think it's a mistake to talk about a small holder and a big holder, and I believe that agreements have to be made with everyone, without distinctions. And give guarantees that if you rent a home, the price is appropriate. Provide facilities that cool the market using price indices. There are many alternatives to the reality that the sector is experiencing.

What do you think of the 3% cap on rents when renewing rental contracts?

I see it well. It is still inherited from the pandemic and the crisis situation. I don't think the supply problem comes from being told that the price cannot be raised more than 3%. We are talking about the fact that we come from rents that are already very high. And even more so if it has a correlation with the CPI, which is more or less 3%.

     “Sanctions on landlords seem like a bad system to solve the rental problem”

  And the price cap established by the Housing Law?

Another very different thing is rent control, and we are entering an area in which the owner will not be able to raise the price at all from 2025. If this were to reach an agreement on how price indices are defined, and all the cases were taken into account, because it could work. It must be taken into account that two homes that are in the same building may not be worth the same, since one may be renovated and the other not, for example. And this is something that led to a distortion in the market when it was proposed in Catalonia.

You chair the Habitat 3 foundation. What is your objective?

It is a foundation that has just turned ten years old to find and create homes for the most vulnerable groups. We are focused on the population with lower incomes. We have two types of programs: one in agreement with municipalities and another with social entities. What we do is look for housing from the existing stock that the owners give us so that we can rent them to people in need, or promotions that we buy thanks to mechanisms such as trial and withdrawal.

In practice, we agree on an adjusted price with the owner, giving him total guarantees of collection and recovery of the home in perfect condition. The city council decides which family will live in that home and covers the difference between what the family can pay and what is agreed with the owner.

  • Carme Trilla: ''El lloguer no puja més on hi ha pisos turístics, puja on no hi ha oferta''