YouTuber Rubén Doblas, popularly known as El Rubius, was the cause of the controversy. In January 2021, when the pandemic was still very present in homes around the world, El Rubius announced in a Twitch broadcast that he was leaving Spain and moving to Andorra. The streamer justified his decision by saying he wanted to be close to his friends as dozens of content creators are based in the country. It quickly became clear what makes Andorra so attractive: The maximum income tax rate in Andorra is 10%, while in Spain it is over 47% for income over 300,000 euros – like for large YouTubers.
Public opinion and the Spanish authorities criticized the lack of solidarity among border crossers. On the contrary, the Andorran government welcomed them with open arms, since the pandemic had devastated the economy of tourism and shopping in the country and the arrival of new incomes became vital.
Three years after the YouTubers' escape, a new adventure of one of them has come to light in the small country. Last Monday it was revealed that another Spanish YouTuber, David Cánovas, known as TheGrefg, intends to evict an 80-year-old woman from a block of apartments she bought in Escaldes-Engordany in the summer of 2020. Canovas, like many of his colleagues, is committed to investing in bricks in a country where property prices have risen so much in recent years that even Andorrans themselves – those in a country where 85,000 people live and only 30,000 People live there, a minority were born there – they have problems renting apartments.
The situation has worsened to the point that on December 8, more than 2,700 people demonstrated across the country because high housing prices were driving them out. It was the largest demonstration ever in Andorra, where discretion and social peace are usually the maxims to follow. The government is at a real crossroads.
Joan Ramon Crespo, member of the Coordination Platform for Decent Housing in Andorra, was one of the initiators of the demonstration and gives the origin of the problem: “In 2008, the economic crisis caused 10,000 Portuguese who worked in the country to leave the country. . Many apartments were empty and politicians thought that foreign investment would save the economy. Red carpets have been laid out for investments and luxury construction, so that workers earning 1,370 euros can no longer rent apartments that exceed 1,500 euros a month.”
Crespo claims that YouTubers are the “most obvious” “speculators,” but that there are also “vulture funds and wealthy Andorran families who have joined the party.” For this reason, many Andorrans look for rental properties outside the country. “The government has been lenient and at the same time the population is becoming poorer. “Foreign investment should be reduced and housing construction for tourists should be regulated, because there are 2,700 apartments that are only rented to tourists,” he complains. The decent housing coordinator assures that the Andorran middle class has “completely disappeared”. “The future of our children is about to end,” warns Crespo.
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Most content creators broadcasting from Andorra are foreigners, but there is one exception. Tiktoker Clau Bunny (Claudia Cunill) is Andorran and her X-ray image of the country is very similar to Crespo's. “Andorra no longer belongs to the Andorrans. They've made it so that only YouTubers and investors can live here. “I ended up having to buy a house in the south of France because it was impossible to rent or buy in my country,” he complains.
YouTuber TheGrefg's attempted eviction is not the only misdeed committed by these new residents in Andorra. Just as El Rubius announced his move to Andorra, police in that country arrested half a dozen people for working for YouTubers without legal permission. Shortly after, influencer Gonzalo Sapiña was arrested for various cryptocurrency exchange scams. In August 2023, the person arrested was Ferrariman, a popular streamer who records himself driving while exceeding speed limits. In September, Andorran prosecutors opened a case against influencer ElmilloR for calling police “fucking subnormals,” and in October they arrested another content creator for sexually assaulting a young woman.
When the eviction caused by TheGrefg came to light in January this year, moods among Andorrans were very tense. So tense that the head of government of Andorra, Xavier Espot, demanded that the group of YouTubers not be criminalized. “I think they are being blamed for evils that are not their fault, but the factors are much broader,” he defended.
EL PAÍS has contacted Andorra's ministerial spokesman, Guillem Casal, who has asked for time so that the legal process regarding TheGrefg's eviction can be completed, although he claims that the government will take care of the elderly woman when she is in in a situation of abandonment. Casal admits: “There is a housing problem and we will solve it.” The ministerial spokesman assures that 54 million euros will be allocated for the construction of social housing and that foreign investors will have to pay a tax if they want to buy apartments. Nevertheless, he defends the YouTubers: “Our country is attractive to live in.” About nine million visitors come every year and it is interesting that these content creators come because we are diversifying the economy. Furthermore, they are not responsible for the increase in property prices as they live in high-quality houses.”
The unrest has spread to employee representatives. The Secretary General of the Andorran Trade Union Union (USdA), Gabril Ubach, has criticized the country's economic opening model. “It has become very easy for YouTubers and those in power to enter Andorra. Housing construction has increased so much that fewer and fewer Spanish or French people are working in the country. Now they come from Latin America and live in overcrowded apartments. We need a lot of workers, but they get miserable salaries and have no place to live because the great fate has destroyed everything,” he concludes.
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