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Will Barcelona significantly bar tourist rentals by 2028 and will that ease its housing crisis?

Posted by European Action Coalition on 30 June 2024

Barcelona plans to significantly reduce the number of tourist flats in the coming years by limiting the number of licenses for that kind of rental by 2028, but will this take place and is it enough? There are other issues in the city that take part of the housing and tourism policies that make the whole thing look less promising.

You have probably recently read in the media1 – like we have – that Barcelona’s mayor Jaume Collboni announced reducing the number of flats for short-term rental by 10,000 by the year 2028. Reducing the number of licences that owners get for renting their property to tourists is part of a decree that was passed by the Catalan Generalitat early this year. The decree was made to confront a raging housing crisis in Spain. Causes are many, but all come down to housing being a source of profit-making for the elites. In the past years, more and more owners have decided to rent flats to tourists instead of residents because this is how they extract more profit from them.

Barcelona is especially struck by this trend as it is Spain’s most visited city by foreign tourists. Turning flats into short-term accommodation for tourists has lead to rents rising by 68% and the cost of buying a house by 38% in the past 10 years. The city has already shut down around 9,700 illegal tourist flats and around 3,500 have been recovered to be used for housing of Barcelona’s residents.2 Even though the Decree to significantly limit the number of short-term-rental flats looks as a sound and needed measure (that we have already written about and that you can find here), Barcelona Tenants Union (Sindicat de Llogateres) is worried and has doubts about whether this will bring much relief to the local residents, when and if at all. We are passing their short analysis of the situation here:

1) First and foremost, the Decree will have an effect only in four years, since this is when licenses for tourist flats will expire (at that moment, some will not be able to renew them if the number of flats designated to tourists surpasses the upper limit of 10 flats per 100 residents). Until that time comes, local and regional authorities may change and decide not to apply the decree.

2) Tourist flats are not the only issue in Barcelona, but short-term rentals which are not regulated at all.

3) The mayor of Barcelona intends to amend a decree that forces big investors and real estate holders to allocate 30% of housing they build to social housing (it is unclear what the mayor’s intention is and what its result will be at this moment).

4) The mayor has so far demonstrated little dedication to policies that would change Barcelona’s relation to tourism and housing – the city is still privatising land, whole blocks are being turned into coliving and other kinds of accommodation for affluent tourists and foreign visitors, the city has hosted a series of events such as the Copa América, Formula 1 and macro-congresses that attract the rich who obviously remain the main target of the city.

All of these things make us doubt that an encompassing and needed change in the city’s housing policies is going to take place. Barcelona Tenants Union calls for an urgent regulation of temporary and room rental as a more encompassing solution to the housing crisis. They demand the same rights for tenants renting rooms (instead of whole flats) and/or renting temporarily as in the long-term rentals, as more vulnerable groups are forced to live this way. They demand that the landlords not be able to charge for extra costs such as maintenance or cleaning in temporary rentals, they demand automatic renewals of contracts of those tenants renting temporarily who do not have another home for the next 5 to 7 years.3

You can read their full text about the Mayor’s announcements concerning tourist rentals in Catalan and Spanish on this link.


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