The Cancunification of Valladolid has locals struggling to find housing


The challenges to guaranteeing local housing against tourism in Valladolid

Valladolid is a population of just under 50,000 inhabitants, located in the east of Yucatan. It is located just halfway between Cancún and Mérida, as well as about 40 minutes from the archaeological zone of Chichén-Itzá. At first, the tourists who came to it did so as a stopover on their way through the peninsula. However, its gastronomy and its buildings made it stop being an involuntary tourist hostel to become a tourist destination in itself. 

The development of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo modified its social and mobility dynamics. The lack of a source of employment led many of its inhabitants to move to Tulum or Playa del Carmen, although not permanently. 

It is common for some people to leave Valladolid for a few days to cross to the Caribbean beaches; stay a few days in them to work and then return home. 

Trabajadores de hotelería prefieren jornadas extenuantes a quedarse sin  empleo en Cancún | PorEsto

This generated that many services began to be charged based on the salaries of the Riviera Maya. So it was with the landlords. The tenants faced prices that were rising every time under the image that they lived in Valladolid with Cancun salaries. 

The situation did not improve with the increase in tourism in this population and with the appearance of short-term rental platforms. The landlords changed their objective and decided to dedicate themselves to renting to tourists through this type of application. Now not only rent prices were high: fewer and fewer people wanted to rent their homes in Valladolid. 

The priority is renting to tourists.

Currently, most of the options available for Valladolid in lodging applications are between $311 and $3,000 pesos per day. That would imply a minimum of $9,330 pesos per month in a state with an average salary of $15,588 pesos per month.

As if that were not enough, Valladolid will host one of the stations of the tourist project called “Mayan Train”, the main work of the current federal government. 


Subdivisions of 100, 200, 300, and up to 500 investment lots in the area are beginning to be promoted, boasting two characteristics: being close to Valladolid and (therefore) close to a “Mayan Train” station. 

These speculative lands are offered on the internet from 400m 2 . They are proliferating faster and faster in a context in which the existence of a possible housing bubble in the region is feared; fueled largely by the tourist euphoria. Although there are many authors involved in these processes, there is no doubt that this type of platform is one of the most visible. One of the most impacting on access to rental housing.

However, this story is not exclusive to Valladolid, rather it is a worldwide phenomenon.

Good tourism, bad tourism

Debates around tourism are complex and cannot be limited to simplistic impressions. However, we can recognize that we are facing urban transformations in which it is considered necessary to bet on tourism; even to the detriment of people’s quality of life. Although this phenomenon is found in all latitudes, it finds more complex characteristics in the countries of the Global South (Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia).

During the 20th century, the imaginary was created that tourism would manage to lift our countries out of poverty. The arrival of tourists from the United States, Australia, Japan, and Western Europe would mean an economic benefit greater than operating expenses. It was understood as an industry based on infinite and permanent products: landscapes, gastronomy, people, experiences and souvenirs. It seemed an option not only strategic but impossible to waste.

The tourist enthusiasm was particularly rooted in Mexico. The creation of the State of Quintana Roo during the 1970s cannot be understood without the creation of Cancún (and therefore of the “Riviera Maya”). What was previously a territory administered by the Federal Government to contain Mayan populations considered “rebels” became the 31st federal entity under the slogan of being the new and definitive tourist pole of the country. In 2014, DATATUR announced that 47.54% of tourists in Mexico went to Quintana Roo.

However, the thesis did not contemplate several edges that were actually essential. Contrary to what was believed, tourism does intervene infinite goods such as land, access to water, and housing space. 

The touristification process also generates great inequalities and socioeconomic exclusion, as occurs in Cartagena, Punta Cana or Cancun. This is without taking into account the impact it can generate on mobility, the economy and the social fabric of indigenous, peasant and fishermen communities.

Although tourism is an important source of income (and therefore taxes for the government); the possible benefits cannot be a reason to ignore the great consequences that it can generate. Taking advantage of an activity is easily confused as the main objective of our cities.


Legal alternatives for something more complex

The debate on hosting applications has also been addressed by law. Legal options are always limited and are not enough to cover phenomena of such complexity. Many alternatives have been discussed in different cities, ranging from absolute prohibition to negotiation for the adoption of common guidelines.

In July 2020, a congresswoman from Mexico City presented a controversial initiative that aimed to ban the use of applications. The proposal proposed to modify article 17 of the local Real Estate Condominium Property Law so that “temporary lodging” is prohibited. 

This first problem was in the wording: when referring to a company in particular, it was a private law and prohibited by article 13 of the Constitution. Although the initiative was never approved, it could be anticipated that the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation would intervene before such a norm.

But in addition, the absolute prohibition can be so problematic that it generates opposition even among certain sectors of tenants who are looking for short- or medium-term contracts to live. There are other alternative measures that have been explored at different latitudes.

In the City of Buenos Aires, it has been decided to regulate the leasing of digital platforms through a mandatory registration; as long as the co-ownership regulations do not prohibit the property from being used for it. However, the scopes are limited. It seems more like legislation to regulate relations between guests and tenants than to prevent and mitigate the effects on access to housing.

In Mexico, Baja California Sur is the only state in the country where one-day rentals are expressly allowed. For the vast majority of states such as Nuevo León, Quintana Roo, and Veracruz, there is a legal vacuum that would not prohibit this possibility, since there is no minimum required by law for the duration of a lease.

In the cities of Japan, the mandatory registration of owners using the platform has been implemented, who can also only rent their property for a minimum of one week and a maximum of 180 days. However, the measure occurs in a context in which the Japanese hotel industry cannot cope. It seems, then, that the platform is regulated so that it is a “controlled relief” to tourist demand.

In places like Colombia, it has been decided to apply tax inhibitors. In that South American country, it was decided to charge 0.25% of the profits obtained from the use of these platforms. The courts have also not been free to address the problem. For example, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court has already recognized in the judgment of the Condesa del Mar Condominium Owners Council vs. Chamah Martínez case; that it is legally valid that a co-ownership regulation prohibits any of the properties of the complex from being used for short-term rentals through digital platforms.

In general terms, we can identify two legal extremes: the absolute prohibition of platforms and their absolute permission (without any type of regulation). Between both points there is a range of alternatives that range from limiting the number of properties by area to limiting the number of days that a property is offered on these platforms, to tax inhibitors or incentives.

Contrary to what is usually believed, the debates on the law that should apply to this type of platform are still incipient. Largely because proposing limits to this activity in favor of access to rental housing is an unpopular bet in some sectors. Perhaps a large part of the problem is that many of these proposals usually arrive without the phenomenon that these platforms have generated in the development of our cities and in access to housing being made visible. 

The housing crisis generated by the pandemic in many cities has advanced the discussions. The demands towards the authorities are more and more visibleespecially among younger generations who increasingly consider less of a housing alternative other than renting.

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