Altea, the Valencian municipality that asks for a pause in the boom in tourist apartments

The tourist boom was beginning to weigh heavily on Altea, an almost picture-postcard fishing town that gives the image of the Costa Blanca beyond the always crowded Benidorm.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
14 May 2024 Tuesday 10:23
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Altea, the Valencian municipality that asks for a pause in the boom in tourist apartments

The tourist boom was beginning to weigh heavily on Altea, an almost picture-postcard fishing town that gives the image of the Costa Blanca beyond the always crowded Benidorm. The luxurious urbanization that attracted Vladimir Putin is located in Altea, where there is also a four-star hotel, one of more than 26 in this town in the Marina Baixa that has 23,280 inhabitants (INE, 2023). But tourism was beginning to devour the municipality's daily life, to the point that 13% of its housing stock was already used for tourist rentals.

“We had a very intense debate internally, and we decided to suspend the urban compatibility licenses to have time to stop and think about the model. We saw that the tourist apartments were not only in the urbanizations, but that they were also located where the population of Altea traditionally lives,” explains José Orozco, Councilor for Urban Planning and the Environment for Compromís, which governs the town together with the PSPV.

Until January, when the licenses were paralyzed, the City Council had approved a total of 2,220, the mayor figures. The official registry of the Generalitat Valenciana places the number of homes at 2,162 units.

This coming May 22, the debate process enters a second phase, after a first in which there have been participation workshops in which the tourism sector, residents and citizens have been presenting their ideas around a model that, explains Orozco, demands a change. At the same time, a statistical report on the situation of the municipality is being prepared. “Tourist housing also has a positive component because it provides a certain deseasonalization, but we saw that the load capacity in infrastructure was growing, in natural resources and in how it was affecting access to housing,” argues the councilor.

His pause proposal has generated interest in other municipalities in the area and they have even replicated it: Polop, where the PP governs with the support of Compromís, has paralyzed this week the licenses for tourist homes, both new and pending ones. The official record puts the number of tourist homes at 144 in a town of 5,339 inhabitants. And it might not be the only one, since there are other Valencian municipalities that have maintained contacts with Altea to study how to apply the same measure in their localities.

Altea's proposal has recently been applauded by the hotel association Hosbec, which in its general assembly gave as an example the measure to request better urban planning and a more active role for local administrations in the debate that is already open around the boom. of tourist homes in the Valencian territory. At the general assembly of the employers' association, its mayor, Diego Zaragozí, spoke, highlighting that the growth of tourist apartments and holiday rental houses in Altea had been considerable, and pointed out that it is “crucial” that we learn from similar situations in places like Ibiza and Formentera to avoid problems of saturation and loss of local identity.

The request for a moratorium resonates strongly these days in Valencia, where neighborhood movements are activating to denounce the problems that, in their opinion, massive tourism that is now staying in residential buildings and commercial basements causes the neighborhood and the city. converted into housing.

The president of the Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Valencia, María José Broseta, requested it again on Monday, in an act of support for young people due to their difficulties in accessing housing and pointed out that the problem now “already extends to all the neighborhoods of Valencia.” The mayor of the city, María José Català, asks for time to reflect on “how to somehow limit the saturation” of tourist apartments in some areas of the city and “how to pursue irregular activity with all the force in the world.”

In front of the town hall is Compromís, which recovers the tourist tax proposal, already repealed by the Consell, which could be used to improve public services in Valencia "as so many front-line European cities do," spokesperson Papi said yesterday. Robles after meeting with the Federation of AA.VV. From Valencia.

Meanwhile, the PSPV of Valencia asks the mayor to act. “Even Almeida has declared in Madrid the suspension of new licenses while approving the Modification of the General Plan and increasing the amount of sanctions, in line with Barcelona,” says socialist Sandra Gómez, who assures that her government left a moratorium as there already is in Altea.