Home » Tribunal International des Évictions » Cas d'Expulsions » 6ème Session 2017 » Case From Italy, Venice: Fake tourist rentals on the Island of Pellestrina, Venice

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Case From Italy, Venice: Fake tourist rentals on the Island of Pellestrina, Venice

Pellestrina has a population of 5,000 and four main villages: Portosecco, San Pietro in Proprio and Pellestrina. The lure of easy money here has led to an increasingly invasive, unsustainable form of tourism and speculation, which is gradually emptying out homes that were previously always inhabited by locals.

Presenting: Matelda Simona Bottoni

Organisation: Location: Pellestrina and Center of Venice

Location: Pellestrina

Evicted: Families

Number of evicted:  200

  • Women: 25%
  • Children: 50%

Organisations mobilised: Unione Inquilini

Legal Action: Yes

13km long, 210m wide, with alleyways and little squares, local rivalries between villages and a passion for regattas, the island of Pellestrina is sold to tourists as “a genuine, popular Venice in miniature”. The low, multi-coloured buildings, all of them facing the lagoon, creates a pleasing Lego effect, giving Pellestrina the air of a toy island.

Pellestrina has a population of 5,000 and four main villages: Portosecco, San Pietro in Proprio and Pellestrina. The lure of easy money here has led to an increasingly invasive, unsustainable form of tourism and speculation, which is gradually emptying out homes that were previously always inhabited by locals.

On Pellestrina, as in the rest of Venice, particularly the historic centre, it has become impossible to rent accommodation for residential use, because the market offers only holiday-rental contracts, which do not allow long-term occupation. The only way for residents to continue living on the island is to buy a property, but the cost of this is prohibitive for many. In the ongoing economic crisis, buying or building accommodation is a realistic option only for investors, who seek to make a profit by renting out the properties for short periods to tourists. The tax system is also distorted, creating incentives for not only speculators but also, increasingly, for private owners who have inherited their homes or bought them at great sacrifice, to rent their properties out to visitors.

The phenomenon is serious and widespread, making it essentially impossible for locals to rent properties for residential purposes.

This has worrying consequences, most notably the loss of public services, particularly those that are directly linked to the number of residents, such as hospitals, public registry offices and municipal services. Residents’ civil and social rights are severely compromised with the loss of essential medical services, paediatric services and nurseries. Local businesses are driven out, replaced by shops selling souvenirs or low-cost food and drinks. Furthermore, as their residency situation becomes precarious, it becomes impossible for many residents to register on the electoral roll, putting their right to vote at risk.

This alarming situation is illustrated by the case of Mr M.B., his partner and their two small children, aged three and one.

Mr M.B. exercises a traditional profession that is closely linked to the local area. This makes it impossible for him to continue to carry out his profession if the family moves anywhere else, for example to the mainland (as many locals have been forced to do over the last fifty years). In order to continue working and supporting his family, Mr M.B. has to stay in Pellestrina, living in a property that belongs to an investment company and that is intended exclusively as a holiday rental. Occupants are not permitted to register as resident at this address.

Mr M.B. and his family have therefore had to move frequently in recent years, from one investor-owned property to the next. The family is at the mercy of tourist activity and the demands of the owners, who may at any time decide to sell whichever property the family is currently occupying. Nor does the family get reduced rent for the inconvenience: the rent comes to €700 a month.

In addition, occupants are liable to pay a considerable penalty if there is any delay in vacating the property, which can be up to €200 a day. The penalty is clearly intended as a deterrent to discourage tenants from trying to exercise their rights.

Another problem encountered by Mr M.B. was when he went to the local registry office to ask to be registered as having no fixed address for the purposes of interactions with the local authorities, since his rental contract at his current home prohibited him from registering as resident at that address. The family was not permitted to register as having no fixed address, since they had a place to live at the time and the municipality therefore did not consider them homeless. Mr M.B. and his family currently find themselves in a very precarious and uncertain situation.

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