Venice tries to discourage the conversion of houses into apartments for tourists

A provision has been included in the aid bill that, in Venice, seeks to discourage the transformation of residential houses into apartments perpetually rented out to tourists. The goal is to help 'save' Venice from tourists. But there are discontents.

Tourism is running again and cities of art are gearing up to manage flows with new regulations. Venice and Florence are the protagonists of this activism that has at the moment produced a Memorandum of Understanding between the two cities, a popular initiative law to “save” historic centers promoted by the mayor of Florence, the Regulations for visitor access to Venice with an entrance fee, and (new in these days) an amendment to the DL Aiuti approved by Parliament on July 14 that allows the mayor of Venice to set limits on short tourist rentals.

After announcing it in recent months with a wide debate, in fact, the strategy to “defend” Venice from tourists is taking shape. Or rather, defend the lagoon city from the consequences that massive tourism could have in terms of degradation, economic and social fabric, identity and demographics of one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world.

Mayor Brugnaro approved in the City Council the new “Regulations for the Establishment and Regulation of the Access Fee”(full text here) to try to regulate entry to the city starting January 16, 2023 with an access fee and a reservation system. The economic contribution required from those who will not stay overnight in hotels (who will then pay the tourist tax) will vary from 3 to 10 euros with the stated goal of discouraging day tourism at certain times of the year and incentivizing overnight tourism. By the end of the year, characterizing details such as daily attendance thresholds, individual days or periods of the year in which to apply a different measure of the access fee, time of day bands in which not to apply the fee, and the possibility of reducing the cost of the fee if booked well in advance will be defined.

Veduta di Venezia nei pressi della Salute
View of Venice near the Salute
Gondole a Venezia
Gondolas in Venice

From next August until December 31 there will be an experimental phase where measures with this rationale will start: the vaporetto ticket, for example, will increase in August from 7.5 to 9 euros. To incentivize bookings, however, there will be a discount for those who book a month in advance: 7.5 euro fare and 5 euro discount on parking. From 2023, turnstiles will also come into operation at the train station where each person will have to scan a QR code to pass and be counted. For those who do not pay the fee as they do not qualify for exemption, there is an administrative penalty of 50 euros to 300 euros. The system will be governed by the Control Room where data and images from as many as 360 cameras and 40 people counters placed at various strategic points (bridges, calli, canals...) are conveyed.

In addition, in order to avoid the distortion of the historic center with the emptying of residents from the palaces that gradually become tourist rental buildings, an amendment to the “Aid” Decree-Law has been included that will allow it to identify maximum limits and prerequisites for the use of residential properties for short-term rental activities. This was a bipartisan action by parliamentarians from the Veneto region that took its cue from what was contained in the Popular Initiative Bill promoted by Florence Mayor Nardella in recent months and that was counting on landing in Parliament after the collection of the 50,000 signatures required by law. The two cities less than a year ago drew up a protocol for joint actions on the issue of historic centers, and a discussion is also underway in the Tuscan capital to ask for a financial contribution to visiting tourists.

The rule included in the DL Aiuti and finally approved by the Senate at its July 14 session provides that an apartment that is rented for more than 120 nights a year will no longer have a residential use, urbanistically speaking, but a receptive one. Which as a result entails being subject to the fulfillments and tax regime of a hotel, no longer being able, for example, to benefit from the dry coupon. A way to discourage the transformation of houses in the historic center into purely and perpetually rented apartments. Even though the rule, however, provides for the exclusion of owners of only one apartment intended for tourist rental.

The new rule has divided the economic categories and created ill-feeling among homeowners-as many as 8700 of them currently on booking portals-, prompting protest actions to prevent the amendment from being approved by mailbombing to the e-mail inboxes of parliamentarians. Confedilizia, on the other hand, calls the amendment “liberticidal” and argues that it will "incentivize the black market: with a provision of highly dubious constitutionality, Giorgio Spaziani Testa of Confedilizia told Il Messaggero, “a municipality is given the power to determine whether, how and when a citizen can exercise the right of owning his home, deciding to rent it out to whomever he deems.” Between market freedom and intentions to safeguard the historic centers of art cities, therefore, the debate remains heated.

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