The Bloomberg CityLab reports:
Barcelona is deploying a new weapon in its quest to increase the city's available rental housing: the power to force the sale of empty properties.
This week, the city's housing department wrote to 14 companies that collectively own 194 empty apartments, warning that if they haven't found a tenant within the next month, the city could take possession of these properties, with compensation at half their market value. These units would then be rented out by the city as public housing to lower-income tenants, while the companies in question could also face possible fines of between €90,000 and €900,000 ($103,000 and $1,003,000), according to Spanish news outlets.
It's actually been legal since 2016 for municipalities in Catalonia to take over properties that have been vacant more than two years. There is obviously an eminent domain argument to be had here; but there's also the argument about greedy landlords hoarding property and artificially inflating property values for everyone even as they write off their vacant units as business losses, thus leading to even more profits in the long run. (I don't know enough about Spanish or Catalonian tax structures, but it can work that way in the United States.)
Barcelona's Latest Affordable Housing Tool: Seize Empty Apartments [Feargus O'Sullivan / Bloomberg City Lab]
Image: Todd Dominey / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)