Barcelona to ban short-term rentals in bid to curb soaring housing costs

BARCELONA, SPAIN – Barcelona, a premier holiday destination in Spain, has announced a sweeping ban on apartment rentals to tourists by 2028, aiming to curb skyrocketing housing costs and improve livability for its residents.

Mayor Jaume Collboni revealed on Friday that the city will revoke the licenses of the 10,101 apartments currently authorized for short-term rentals by November 2028. “We are addressing what we believe to be the most pressing issue for Barcelona,” Collboni stated at a city government event. He emphasized that “from 2029 onwards, tourist flats as we know them today will cease to exist in Barcelona.”

The surge in short-term rentals has made Barcelona, Spain’s most visited city by international tourists, increasingly unaffordable for its residents. Over the past decade, rental prices have surged by 68%, while the cost of purchasing a home has risen by 38%, according to Collboni. This housing crisis has exacerbated inequality, particularly affecting young people.

While national governments often celebrate the economic benefits of tourism—Spain is among the top three most visited countries globally—local residents face displacement due to gentrification and property owners’ preference for more profitable tourist rentals. This issue has become a focal point across Europe, with cities like the Canary Islands, Lisbon, and Berlin imposing their own restrictions on short-term rentals over the past decade.

Spain’s Socialist housing minister, Isabel Rodriguez, expressed her support for Barcelona’s decision, emphasizing the importance of ensuring access to affordable housing. However, the move has faced criticism from the city’s tourist apartments association, Apartur, which warned that the ban could lead to increased poverty and unemployment, as well as a rise in illegal tourist rentals.

Hotels, which were previously restricted from opening new locations in Barcelona’s most popular areas, could benefit from this new policy. Collboni has hinted at potentially relaxing these restrictions, though the city’s hotel association has yet to comment on the announcement.

The local government has pledged to maintain a stringent inspection regime to identify and shut down illegal tourist apartments once the ban is in effect. Since 2016, Barcelona has closed 9,700 illegal tourist apartments and reclaimed nearly 3,500 units for primary housing.

Despite these efforts, the number of visitors to Barcelona—famed for its belle époque architecture, museums, and beaches—continues to rise, especially following the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions. In response, several local associations have planned a demonstration on July 6th, under the slogan: “Enough! Let’s put a stop to tourism!” This rally follows similar protests in other Spanish tourist hotspots like the Canary Islands and Palma de Mallorca.