The Colombian Congress is considering allowing the use of private homes for tourism in the country. This is provided for in Law 205 of 2022, which already passed the first debate in May, and it appears to have sufficient support in the second debate to continue its path towards final approval in the Colombian legislature.
The proposed law aims to allow any private residence to be used for tourism accommodation. The initiative seeks to reform the horizontal property regime in Colombia to enable the tourist use of any particular residential dwelling or property.
The text being debated in the country, if approved, only allows for the denial of these uses when approved by 70% of the assembly of property owners in a building or residential complex.
A Controversial Project
In essence, what the proposal aims to do is amend the current law, which dates back 22 years and regulates coexistence and security among property owners in horizontal property, whether in the form of a building or a closed complex.
The project is being promoted by various conservative politicians, including Marelen Castillo, who was the vice-presidential candidate alongside Rodolfo Hernandez, who lost the electoral race to Gustavo Petro.
German Molano, President of the College of Horizontal Property Administrators, has criticized the law, especially because, in his view, there have not been enough debates to seek consensus and analyze the options that the law would open up if approved. Molano has also criticized the fact that the opinions of horizontal property experts have not been taken into account.
A similar idea attempted to move forward in the legislature in 2021 but was ultimately archived. The failure of this attempt was largely influenced by the opinions of horizontal property experts, who played a role in the debates on that occasion.
Professionals Raise Concerns
Associations such as the Lonja de Propiedad Raíz de Medellín y Antioquia have raised concerns about this bill due to the serious consequences it could have on such a sensitive and essential sector as housing. In this regard, professionals warn of the significant drop in rental supply that could result for those seeking rentals for non-touristic purposes if the project is approved.
The high profits sought by the tourism sector, which seeks short-stay rentals, could reduce the availability of housing for families looking for long-term rentals. In fact, in cities like Medellin, the rental supply has already fallen by 58%, while prices have risen. Many contracts with tenants are terminated to place the homes on platforms like Airbnb.
Heading Towards Gentrification
This practice, already happening in major European cities, leads to what experts call gentrification. This is a change in the social, cultural, physical, and economic model of neighborhoods traditionally inhabited by working-class populations who are displaced by higher-income groups due to tourism. Speculation in prices has been documented in world capitals that have already fallen victim to the excessive tourist use of housing.
The opportunity to make high profits leads many people with economic means to buy property in popular neighborhoods, which quickly experience price increases that displace the original population, many of whom live in rental properties. The significant price hikes prompt these people to leave in favor of the new owners who use the properties for tourist purposes.
This is warned by María Alejandra Pérez, Legal Director of the Lonja, who believes that “if it’s already a problem to control Airbnb, then there will be no way to do so.” According to Pérez, this law will legalize short stays without the need for authorization, by law.
Furthermore, this situation could be detrimental to important issues in Colombia, such as the security of residents, as it would allow continuous and poorly controlled access to residential spaces by individuals who do not own the property.