The United Nations special rapporteur for adequate housing and his counterpart for extreme poverty and Human Rights believe that the Housing bill presented by the Government falls short. In a statement addressed to the Executive and dated this week, both officials recommend modifying the text to, among other issues, “improve the rent containment system.” The text recalls that the future standard contemplates a system of price limits “that can be introduced in stressed real estate markets” and “welcomes” that fact. But he adds that “this measure should be extended to all new contracts in such areas, not just large-scale homeowners.” According to the proposal that the Government sent to Congress, where substantial aspects are being debated and will foreseeably be modified, rent controls were reserved for the so-called large holders, while for small owners tax discounts were included in exchange for cheap renting.
But this dual system does not convince the UN rapporteurs, who recall that “according to the data provided by the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, only around 6% of all homes are rented by large owners.” This, they continue, “means that the vast majority of tenants would not benefit from such measures.” “Most of the countries that have adopted rent containment systems have established such rules for all rented homes in tense real estate markets, regardless of whether home ownership is a large or small actor,” they insist in another point of view. the letter sent to the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, dated January 24 and published on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Special rapporteurs are independent experts called upon by the UN Human Rights Council to closely monitor certain issues.
The different rules for large and small owners are not the only aspect that does not convince the representatives of the United Nations. “The power to declare an area as a stressed real estate market (a requirement required by the project to apply rent controls) should not be restricted to the autonomous communities,” they maintain. For this reason, they recommend that the Town Halls also be empowered, “who know first-hand the problems of supplying housing for rent at affordable prices.”
The rapporteurs highlight that, according to Eurostat, 40.9% of Spanish tenants allocated more than 40% of their income to housing expenses in 2021. “Rent containment alone cannot guarantee that housing is affordable”, they state, “in addition to urgently expanding the social housing stock, it may be necessary to consider the establishment of housing cost subsidies for low-income households.” They also demand that landlords be forced to inform tenants of the previous rent in the new contracts. And that if the tenants believe that the control system is breached, they can “easily challenge the excessive rent.” “The right to housing law should also specify the fines that the authorities can impose on properties that charge excessive rents,” they add.
An “opportunity” for Spain
The authors of the letter request that it be delivered to the Minister of Transportation, Raquel Sánchez, since her department coordinates state housing policies, which is a competence transferred to the communities. Also that it be shared with Congress and “the commissions and parliamentary groups that are currently considering this legislation”, alluding to the future state regulation. The letter begins with praise for the development of the norm, which they say constitutes “an opportunity to align state law with various decisions made by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (of the United Nations) in relation to complaints related to the right to adequate housing in Spain”. The aforementioned committee has ruled on several occasions on Spanish affairs, especially to position itself against evictions of vulnerable families, since Spain ratified in 2010 the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The two UN experts who sign the well-known letter now abound in the same idea. Among the seven recommendations made to legislators, the “protection of vulnerable people against evictions” is requested, recommending that evictions be prevented in these cases without offering families an alternative home to live in. They also demand that the law be more exhaustive and specify that housing is a human right, measures to combat discrimination against certain groups in access to housing, increase the protection of vulnerable groups, guarantee access to justice for those who see themselves violated. the right to housing and set specific objectives in the expansion of the “very small” social housing stock in Spain, in addition to the aforementioned reinforcement of the rent containment system.
Transport sources indicate that “the ministry values all the proposals of the different organizations and groups, with which it has always been sensitive and with which numerous meetings have been held throughout the process of drafting the law.” And they add that, “in any case, it must be remembered that right now the law is undergoing parliamentary proceedings and that it is in this area where the legislative text is being worked on.” More enthusiastic is the reaction of social organizations such as the Platform for Mortgage Affected (PAH). “In the letter there is a fundamental issue, which we have been demanding for a long time, which is the subjective right to housing,” says Paco Morote, spokesperson for that organization. “The issue of protection from evictions also coincides with what we have been asking for for some time,” he adds, pointing out that the PAH, which on many occasions has addressed the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, has not met with the special rapporteurs to discuss that matter.
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