These are calm days in Congress. The calm before the storm. When February begins, the ordinary period of sessions, the parliamentary groups are going to engage in a hectic and exhausting cycle of laws to approve. There will be flagship rules and others that will not occupy a single headline. The former generate enormous pressure on the spokespersons because they are the ones who negotiate directly and the ones who must explain in public; they are the ones that mark, sometimes, the electoral future. The latter basically generate many hours of work. The first affect a dozen deputies. The second, hundreds. Hard months are coming.
The flagship rules They will be, at least until June of this year, the labor reform, the one that replaces the gag law and the housing law (as long as the Government does not choose to put it to sleep in the parliamentary process, which is currently ruled out by socialist sources). Only one of this trio has a more or less clear path. The paper in charge of repealing the citizen security legislation of the PP It met in double session this Wednesday and it is likely that in two weeks the opinion will be made.
However, the labor reform has gotten into a labyrinth and the housing law looks out on muddy ground. For now, the quagmire is far away, but the sources of the government’s parliamentary allies have been warning for days. They don’t like the draft housing law at all, and it is a crucial issue. In the main cities, Madrid and Barcelona, living has become too expensive and measures are urgently needed, especially aimed at controlling rental prices, an aspect that precisely they do not see in the Government’s regulatory plan. This law begins to be compelling because the legislature has passed the equator and time flies. And the alternative, the right, they argue, is getting stronger.
That in the Government they are aware that the price of housing has become a problem It is obvious. Two facts explain it: that PSOE and United We Can have made it clear that their project will continue despite the reluctance of the General Council of the Judiciary and the haste with which the Council of Ministers has approved aid for young people, this very Tuesday .
The measure, however, has not landed on the right foot in Congress, which has reinforced the spite of the allies towards the intentions of the Executive in terms of housing, and specifically, rental. None of the groups consulted, which are ERC, EH Bildu, Más País, Compromís, highlight their sources, is in favor. They demand that before the bonus, the law arrives. And not the law that is sounding in the outskirts of the Council of Ministers, but a more ambitious one. PDeCAT rejects it for other reasons, according to the sources of this formation.
Overcome the amendment limbo trick
The negotiation of the labor reform will foreseeably come to an end at the beginning of February. These are the pretensions of the coalition, both the PSOE and United We Can, since neither of the two parties wants a negotiation procedure to be opened in Congress as a consequence of that the decree becomes a bill. To do this, it must pass two votes on the same day, in the same plenary session: the first to validate or repeal said decree; the second, if it is validated, to decide if it is processed as a legislative project, which opens the door to changes. And they don’t want to change the decree. The bosses have warned what they will do if that happens: they will fall out of the agreement.
The search for support is so convoluted, given the current arithmetic, that there is no issue that captures attention with similar intensity. But nevertheless, when it ends, in two weeks, another will emerge: the housing law.
The narrowness of the times will not be so blunt because it will not be a decree, but a project, which implies a different process. One of the risks that the allies see is precisely that: that the urgency fades. It may happen that the text remains in the limbo of the extensions of amendments, week after week, and there is no sign of it coming out. There are projects and proposals that have been like this for more than a year. Can the Government allow itself to freeze the norm through this ruse? Sources hope not. The socialist sources, for their part, when asked about it, emphasize that the law has to be approved yes or yes.
Of course, the allies will exert pressure so that the law is not forgotten. And if they succeed, they will push to change it. It is urgent, the sources agree, more than the young rent assistance bonus. At EH Bildu they consider that starting with the bonus is “Start the house on the roof”. “The sequence must be the other way around. Regulate the rents first and then grant aid so that the owners cannot take advantage of the situation”, insist the sources of the abertzale group, who recall that the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in its second legislature, “applied a similar bond and the consequences were not good”.
It will help the landlords in the end
In ERC and EH Bildu they coincide in reading. That aid of 250 euros, ultimately, will favor the owners, because they will raise the price of rents. In similar terms it is pronounced Joan Baldoví after being asked by this means. Esquerra’s sources believe that it is a measure whose effectiveness will depend on the generosity of the landlord.
The Government approved this Tuesday a royal decree (since it is not a decree law, it does not need validation from Congress) that establishes that aid of 250 euros for those under 35 who rent real estate for 600 euros or rooms for 300, prices that in the most populated cities of Spain simply do not exist, as long as the stay is worthy and/or healthy. The amounts can increase if the autonomous community approves it; in the end the competition is regional.
EH Bildu sources doubt the effectiveness of the initiative: “Bearing in mind that there are nearly three million young people under the age of 35 in Spain, the Government calculates that the measure will only be able to ‘benefit’ some 60,000-70,000 youths in a situation of vulnerability.
More Country, according to its sources, sees the bond as “a bad patch” and delves into the main argument that forms the opposition of the Government’s allies to the measure: “Without a serious housing law that allows rent prices to be regulated as it has been done in Germany, in Sweden or in France, rent bonds are a subsidy to landlords that all of society pays”, they insist.
Not even United We can happy at all
First of all, therefore, the new law must be in force, and within it “effective mechanisms to regulate prices in stressed areas, greater investment in public housing and application throughout the national territory,” say the sources of the party that leads Inigo Errejon.
The allies also agree on the need for rent caps, as Catalonia has done. The Parliament approved a rule that empowers municipalities with stressed areas to limit increases according to the price index made by an instance of the Generalitat. The Government conveyed its disappointment at the scope of the measure, but suspended the appeal of unconstitutionality.
In its draft, the Government is more timid. There will be a reference price index, but does not impose the limitation. It will depend on the autonomous community and the corresponding city council, which will also be able to take advantage of an 18-month lag period for price regulation.
Not even United We Can is entirely happy with the wording because a month ago it announced that between his amendments to the law (it is already striking that it presents amendments to a government project being a government party) will include the reduction of that period to three months. It should also be remembered that in mid-December the plenary session of Congress rejected the admission for processing of a housing bill signed by the parliamentary allies, whose support was joined by the “purple” deputies. The PSOE did not, and that was lethal, because effectively the initiative was parked.
As a source says, between one thing and another the law is delayed. And if that 18-month period materializes, there will be no price regulation until, perhaps, the end of the legislature. “And it may not even be done in some communities. Are the autonomies or the municipalities governed by the PP going to do it?” He asks himself before answering: “People can’t wait any longer.”