Barcelona’s ban on renting tourist apartments is not a solution to the housing crisis: “creates a waterbed effect”

Barcelona's ban on renting tourist apartments is not a solution to the housing crisis: "creates a waterbed effect"

Barcelona is currently one of the most popular holiday destinations. But the crowds are causing problems in the housing market. As a solution, the city is introducing a measure that would make renting homes to tourists nearly impossible starting in 2028.

The new measure, which will come into effect from 2028, means that apartments will only be rented to city residents. According to Ros Gerritsma, professor of new urban tourism at Inland University of Applied Sciences, this is a step in the right direction, but it is not the solution. “Tourism affects the housing market, but that’s not the only thing,” she says. “This is a complex issue and tourism is one of the factors at play.”

Various reasons

“One problem is that the attractiveness of some homes makes the home value higher. The owner can earn more by renting it to tourists. As a result, homes are withdrawn from the housing market,” Gerritsma points out.

In principle, she believes that this should not always be a problem if there is enough space for everyone to live, work and recreate the place they want. “But that’s often not the case. So there are many things that make it difficult for certain groups in the community to get housing.”

More social housing

To get a better picture of the situation in Barcelona, ​​Geritsma contacted one of her colleagues, Professor Paolo Russo. He lives in Spain and is currently positive about the action taken by Mayor Jaume Colboni. “He told me it could have a positive impact,” she says.

She continues: “But Paulo does not believe that this is a solution to mass tourism and the housing crisis.” According to Gerritsma’s colleague, the city should work more on building housing for social rent. They both believe this is the way to help the city’s residents, who currently cannot find affordable housing. “You really have to push more buttons to solve this complex problem.”

Looking at yourself

In addition to taking measures, other options to keep tourists away should also be considered, Gerritsma says. “For example, making flying and travel more expensive. So you have to intervene more at these points.” It emphasizes that not only policymakers, but also consumers, must make more efforts to solve this (global) problem. “We tend to say that the tourist is the other person, but that is often part of ourselves.”

“If we all want to live in attractive, livable cities in 50 years, it is also necessary to change our attitude.” According to Gerritsma, the real problem and solution are much more complex than the Barcelona mayor makes it appear. “But I understand that, because of course you want to convey a clear and simple story.”

“Water floor effect”

The reason why the lecturer criticized Colboni’s reports and actions also relates to previous attempts that Amsterdam has already made to keep tourists away. “From a tourist’s point of view, just going to Zaandam is not a problem. It’s very close and they can still take the train and be in Amsterdam in fifteen minutes.”

Gerritsma tries to point out that the impact of mass tourism has not been solved, but the problem is starting to change. Tourists now sleep in other rental properties in other cities. But problems in the housing market remain unresolved. “It creates a bottom-of-the-water effect,” she says. “And I can imagine that this will also happen in Barcelona.”

Audio playback

Barcelona’s rent ban does not solve the housing crisis, according to the city’s sociologist: “It creates a waterbed effect.”

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