Barcelona plans to shut all holiday apartments by 2028 to cut housing costs

Barcelona is Spain’s most-visited city by foreign tourists (AP)
Barcelona is Spain’s most-visited city by foreign tourists (AP)

Barcelona has announced it will bar apartment rentals to tourists by 2028 in an effort to make housing more affordable for residents.

The city's leftist mayor, Jaume Collboni, said on Friday that by November 2028, Barcelona will scrap the licences of the 10,101 apartments currently approved as short-term rentals.

The decision came amid soaring housing costs in Barcelona - Spain’s most visited city by foreign holidaymakers.

"We are confronting what we believe is Barcelona's largest problem," Mr Collboni told a city government event on Friday.

The boom in short-term rentals means some residents cannot afford an apartment, rents rose 68 per cent in the past 10 years and the cost of buying a house rose by 38 per cent, Mr Collboni said. Access to housing has become a driver of inequality, particularly for young people, he added.

National governments relish the economic benefits of tourism, and Spain ranks among the top-three most visited countries in the world.

But with local residents priced out in some places, gentrification and owner preference for lucrative tourist rentals are increasingly a hot topic across Europe.

Local governments have announced restrictions on short-term rentals in places such as Spain's Canary Islands, Lisbon and Berlin in the past decade

Spain's Socialist housing minister, Isabel Rodriguez, said she supported Barcelona's decision.

"It's about making all the necessary efforts to guarantee access to affordable housing," she posted on X.

"Collboni is making a mistake that will lead to (higher) poverty and unemployment," Barcelona's tourist apartments association APARTUR said in a statement, adding the ban would trigger a rise in illegal tourist apartments.

Hotels stand to benefit from the move. The opening of new hotels in the city's most popular areas was banned by a far-left party governing Barcelona between 2015 and 2023, but Mr Collboni has signalled he could relax the restriction.

Barcelona's hotel association declined to comment on Friday's announcement.

"Those 10,000 apartments will be used by the city's residents or will go on the market for rent or sale," said Mr Collboni said of the measure.

Barcelona's local government said in a statement it would maintain its "strong" inspection regime to detect potential illegal tourist apartments once the ban comes into force.

No new tourist apartments have been allowed in the city in recent years.

The local government has ordered the shutting of 9,700 illegal tourist apartments since 2016 and close to 3,500 apartments have been recovered to be used as primary housing for local residents, it said.

Holiday rentals platform Airbnb, which hosts a significant number of Barcelona listings, has been approached for a comment.

The move by Barcelona comes amid a number of restrictions European countries have rolled out in recent years, in a bid to make cities that are popular among tourists more livable for residents.

Earlier this year, Venice rolled out a pilot “tourist tax” scheme that means day-trippers must purchase tickets costing five euros in order to enter the city.Florence announced in October it was banning new short-term residential lets on platforms such as Airbnb in its historic centre. It also offered three years of tax breaks to landlords of short-term holiday lets if they start offering ordinary leases for residents.