Skip to content Skip to footer

Barcelona to Ban All Vacation Rentals by 2028

Although the announcement may seem surprising to outsiders, people familiar with Barcelona will recognize this has been a long time coming—and will likely be a harbinger of future crackdowns across Europe. 

On Friday, Barcelona mayor Jaume Collboni announced that the city intends to invalidate the licenses of all 10,101 units currently approved as short-term vacation rentals, and no new licenses will be issued. The national housing minister expressed support for the idea.

“From 2029, the tourist apartment as it is currently known will disappear from Barcelona,” Collboni said.

As a compromise, the mayor will relax a ban on opening new hotels in the city center. The vacation rental cleansing will be complete by November 2028.

In Spain’s most tourist-packed city, runaway vacation rentals have been squeezing out local residents for years—The New Yorker dubbed Barcelona’s problem “the Airbnb Invasion” in 2019. In the past decades, the cost of renting a home rose 68%, and the cost of buying one jumped by 38%.

The city government has been fighting a rising tide of vacation rentals that locals complain has altered the traditional residential character of the center of Barcelona. In recent years, Barcelona has forced the closing of 9,700 unlicensed apartment rentals and recovered 3,473 units to the rental market for permanent residents.

Locals and resident-focused businesses have been forced out of Barcelona’s center by economic imbalances caused by vacation rentals. The effects on La Rambla, the city’s famous avenue that leads from the port, have been so extreme that authorities are now spending €55.6 million (US$59.5 million) to redesign the street to make it more inviting to foot traffic and hopefully prop up sagging businesses. That work is projected to be done by 2027.

In 2021, Barcelona banned the practice of renting private rooms to tourists. The upcoming ban will expand to affect entire apartments, too.

The November 2028 ban is made possible by a 2023 law passed by the government of Spain’s Catalonia region that empowers cities with a housing crisis to limit tourist apartment rentals. 

Collboni also announced that 30% of new construction would be required to provide new housing units.

Barcelona is not the first European destination to crack down on the destructive butterfly effect of short-term real estate rentals. On the Spanish island of Mallorca, the average vacation rental costs more than a typical Mallorcan makes in salary. That’s one reason authorities there are increasing housing inspections to bust illegal rentals

Crackdowns on vacation rentals have been developing as well in Portugal, ViennaBerlin, Spain’s Canary Islands, and elsewhere. Most of those measures have involved restrictions or limits to rentals; Barcelona’s total ban represents a new and drastic tactic in the battle for affordable housing in Europe.

Collboni’s announcement has drawn criticism, particularly from members of the tourism sector, who point out that some 25% of visitors to Catalonia now stay in vacation rentals. 

In Europe’s rapidly shifting political culture, Barcelona’s ban plan may not survive until its 2028 implementation. But the effort represents a new abolitionist approach in dealing with the ravaging effects of vacation rentals on the residential market, and it has already gained major supporters.

If Barcelona’s housing reset plan succeeds, it will be a practical model for future citywide resets elsewhere. For Europeans who cherish the preservation of the traditional way of life—and who cherish having affordable places to live—that’s good news. But for some who own or operate rentals, this tough new opposition could spell the end of an era of easy tourism profits.