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EU city to ban ‘tourist apartments’

Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni has argued that the move is aimed at making housing more affordable for local residents

The Spanish city of Barcelona wants to ban the rental of apartments to tourists by the end of the decade in a bid to tackle rising housing costs for local residents, its mayor has announced.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Jaume Collboni said Barcelona, which is the most popular tourist destination in the entire country, plans to revoke the licenses of more than 10,000 apartments by November 2028, which can then be used as short-term rentals. 

The mayor, who is also a member of the center-left Socialists’ Party of Catalonia, described the short-term letting of apartments as the city’s “largest problem.” The idea is that “tourist apartments as we conceive of them today will disappear from the city of Barcelona… from 2029.”

The drastic measure comes as rental prices have risen by 68% over the past ten years, with the cost of buying a house soaring by 38%, leaving some residents unable to afford housing. The development has hit young people especially hard, Collboni said.

Deputy Mayor Laia Bonet said the plan would be tantamount to “the manufacturing of 10,000 apartments” for local residents. She said the five-year period until short-term rentals expire could be considered as compensation for landlords. Collboni also noted that these apartments could be sold on the market.

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The mayor admitted that changes to housing policy “never have immediate results,” but called the decision “a turning point” which he said would generate a lot of debate. The proposal still has to be approved by the city council.

Apartur, the Association of Tourist Apartments of Barcelona, has hit out at the plan, however, pointing out that tourist apartments make up less than 1% of the city’s total housing stock. The decision, it added, was nothing more than a “smokescreen” to hide Collboni’s housing policy failures.

Apartur also claimed that the decision would result in the city being “filled with illegal tourist accommodation.” Its president, Enrique Alcantara, claimed that tourist apartments represented 40% of total tourist accommodation, warning that the move would also lead to an increase in unemployment among those working in the sector. 

Barcelona stopped issuing licenses for tourist apartments in 2014, with the existing number hovering around 10,000. It has also tried to crack down on illegal tourist rentals, at one point fining Airbnb €30,000 ($32,000) for allowing the practice to flourish.

June 24, 2024 at 09:22PM

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