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TOURISM

Madrid prepares to ban almost all Airbnb-style rentals

Madrid’s City Hall is preparing strict new regulations that will effectively outlaw 95 percent of private holiday rentals in the capital.

Madrid prepares to ban almost all Airbnb-style rentals
Photo: Kasto/Depositphotos

The new measures were announced this week by the left-wing coalition council of Manuela Carmena in a bid to tackle mass tourism which residents complain is responsible for driving up rent and pushing out locals.

The raft of regulations are designed  “to preserve residential use of buildings, putting a stop to permanent use (by tourists) and replace it with temporary, thus preventing housing from becoming accommodation exclusively for tourists”, according to the plans announced on Wednesday by José Manuel Calvo, secretary for sustainable urban planning.

Different restrictions will be applied to four different zones of the city, with the most restrictive places on the Centro district that includes the areas of Malasaña, Chueca, Sol, La Latina and Lavapiés.

The new regulations will prohibit tourist flats from being rented out more than 90 days a year.

They will also prevent entire apartment buildings being converted into tourist accommodation unless they have the same licencing as a hotel and a moratorium will be placed on issuing such licences for at least a year.

Tourist flats in the Central zone will require a separate entrance to the street from permanent residents in the block, effectively ruling out all but a few ground floor properties.

Madrid is just the latest city to introduce measures to combat the rising number of apartments converted into tourist accommodation.

Earlier this week Valencia introduced new rules and the Mallorcan capital of Palma has banned all unlicensed tourist flats in the city.

Barcelona has led the fight against tourism, cracking down on unlicensed hotel rentals and imposing steep fines.

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Anti-tourism graffiti in Madrid's Plaza Dos de Mayo. Photo: Fiona Govan

Residents complain that the proliferation of tourist flats advertised through portals such as Airbnb and HomeAway are driving up rent in the city.

They also complain of anti-social behaviour by tourists and annoyance with continual turnover of visitors dragging suitcases.

Madrid City Hall insisted that the capital was not yet overrun with tourists and that in fact only 0.54 percent of all residences in the city were dedicated to tourism. But in the popular central district that rises to 6 percent.

TOURISM

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
 
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.

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