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Spaniards despair as 100 fight for every home

MADRID – Pressure on housing in Spanish tourist hotspots driven by the surging price of holiday flats means there are up to 140 aspirants to rent every home, a report has found.

On average, 100 people are applying for each property in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Bilbao and Santa Cruz de Tenerife, according to analysis by Alquiler Seguro, a property company. In the Balearic Islands, an average of 142 people apply for each rental property.

Critics say the scarcity of property has been caused by people renting out their flats to tourists on a short-term basis, through companies such as AirBnb.

Thousands of people demonstrate to demand a tourism model respectful for the islands environment and their residents, on the Canary Island of Tenerife, on April 20, 2024. Tens of thousands of demonstrators hit the streets across Spain's Canary Islands on Saturday to demand changes to the model of mass tourism they say is overwhelming the Atlantic archipelago. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP) (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Thousands of people demonstrate to demand changes to the model of mass tourism they say is overwhelming the Atlantic archipelago (Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP)

In terms of nationality, British people are the largest group of foreign buyers of property in Spain. Last year, among foreign buyers they purchased 9.8 per cent of all homes, according to the College of Registrars of Property.

British holidaymakers make up the largest group of foreign tourists, with 17.3 million travelling to Spain in 2023, a rise of 14.6 per cent compared with 2022.

Now, the lack of affordable rental housing has prompted a backlash from locals across the country and calls for action from government ministers.

Sergio García, a toolmaker, says he has had to move out of the centre of Málaga because he can no longer afford the prices of flats in the city.

“There are about 11,000 tourist flats in the centre. Because of all these flats being rented out to foreign tourists, local people like me cannot afford to live there. They were asking over €1,200 (£1032) per month,” he told i. “We have to do something about these flats.”

Pablo Bustinduy, Spain’s Minister for Social Rights, demanded a curb on tourist flats. “Public housing stock, restrict tourist apartments, use empty housing, pursue speculation. There is a marked path, you have to want to walk it,” he said on X, the social media network.

Analysis by Eurostat, the European Union statistics agency, found that 44.8 per cent of Spaniards who rented their homes were at risk of poverty because the cost of property outstripped earnings – the largest group in the EU.

Spaniards spend on average 40 per cent of their income on renting property or on the mortgage, according to and, two of the biggest real-estate companies.

In Barcelona, Spain’s most expensive city, residents can spend as much as 70 per cent of their income on rent, the analysis found.

BARCELONA, CATALONIA, SPAIN - 2018/05/12: Women seen holding a banner during the demonstration. Protest "Barcelona no est?? en venta" (Barcelona is not for sale) against gentrification, flats renting and tourism. Local people organize protests in main Spanish cities against the real estate speculation. Locals have to move to another cities and left his neighborhood due the increasing prizes and the touristic flats. (Photo by Laura Calonge/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A protest against gentrification, flats renting and tourism in Barcelona (Photo: Laura Calonge/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Martí Cusó, of the Association of Neighbours in Barrio Gótico in Barcelona, the area with the highest number of tourist flats in the city, has been fighting to bring in controls on tourist flats.

“We are not just fighting against investment funds which buy up city centre properties but local people who rent out their properties, sometimes illegally, to make money,” he said.

“There are people who have been kicked out of their flats because they could not afford to pay what the owners wanted to charge the tourists, which was, for example, about €600 per week for a room.”

Barcelona has brought in rent controls in some of the most popular areas with tourists in the city.

Spain lacks about 600,000 homes because construction has slowed in recent years, and many flats are rented to tourists or left empty as holiday homes by their owners, according to a Bank of Spain report published on Tuesday.

Isabel Rodríguez, the Spanish housing minister, has promised to crackdown in May on tourist flats which contravene a basic right to housing.

“We have to intervene and limit the tourist flats. We cannot look the other way,” she told El País newspaper last week.

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