Spain’s capital, heavily reliant on tourist dollars, moved to clamp down on the growing number of houses and apartments rented out to tourists instead of residents facing an ever-shrinking accommodation pool and soaring rents.
The move could shut down around 95 percent of apartments currently used for short term rentals within the city centre, according to estimates from the town hall – that’s around 10,000 individual properties.
The regulations limit the unlicensed leasing of homes to tourists for a maximum of 90 days per calendar year. That means that if you want to let your place for a few weeks or even months to make some extra cash while you take a holiday, you won’t be affected by the new rules.
But any property rented for over 90 days of the year will be considered as a commercial activity and that requires a license.The regulations needed to require one are so strict that 95 percent of properties won’t be granted one.
In order to qualify for a license the property must conform to the same sort of regulations as a hotel, which means that the lodging has to have its own, independent access and not a shared entrance with other residents in the building.
The rules become even stricter for those in the very centre of Madrid with the rules demanding not only a separate entrance to the property but one that is not “direct from the street into the lodging” meaning a reception area or lobby is required.
Does it apply to the whole of Madrid?
The restrictions affect an area that has been divided into three rings determined according to the density of tourists.
The first ring covers all of Madrid Centro – which includes the districts of Sol, Palacio, Cortes, Universidad, Justicia and Embajadores.
The second ring expands to cover the rest of the historical centre of the city comprising the neighbourhoods of Chamberi and parts of Salamanca, Retiro, Arganzuela and Moncloa-Aravaca,
This ring includes the districts; Argüelles, Gaztambide, Arapiles, Trafalgar, Almagro, Castellana, Recoletos, Jerónimos, Palos de Moguer, Acacias, Imperial, Vallehermoso, Ríos Rosas, El Viso, Lista, Goya, Ibiza, Niño Jesús, Pacífico, Atocha, Delicias and Chopera.
The third ring stretches out beyond the M·30 ringroad and includes the districts within Usera, Carabanchel and Latina.
These are: Casa de Campo, Puerta del Ángel, Cármenes, San Isidro, Opañiel, Comillas, Morcardó, Almendrales, Legazpi, Adelfas, Estrella, Fuente del Berro, Guindalera, Prosperidad, Ciudad Jardín, Hispanoamérica, Cuatro Caminos, Ciudad Universitaria, Bellas Vistas, Berrugiete, Castillejos, Nueva España, Valdeacederas, Almenara and Castilla.
Map from Idealista.com
Why is Madrid doing this now?
Madrid's leftist administration said it wants “to preserve residential usage” and has been working to implement this plan before municipal elections in May.
Mayor Manuela Carmena, a former judge, said the policy was designed to stop the flow of residents from the city centre, where rent has been soaring for several years.
According to the latest study carried out by the University of Alcalá, at the beginning of 2018, around 10,400 individual apartments in Madrid were offered for private holiday lets on portals such as Airbnb. Of that figure, 62 percent of the properties were concentrated within the area known as Madrid Centro.
Residents complain of gentrification of old neighbourhoods and how tourists are forcing out residents from Madrid’s historic centre zones.
A neighbourhood movement in once down-trodden but now hipster Malasaña has seen anti-tourist graffiti daubed on walls and signs appearing hung out by residents calling for the preservation of the barrio with the message SOS Malasaña.
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Anti-tourism graffiti in Madrid's Plaza Dos de Mayo. Photo: Fiona Govan
Mercedes González, a PSOE councillor, insisted the regulations were needed to prevent the city centre from becoming “a tourist theme park”.
“This is a first step, necessary to start walking towards a different kind of city where residents can live in peace,” she said, citing data that revealed how the tourist boom was pushing up rent across Madrid by an annual rate of 8 percent.
Other data by real estate portal Fotocasa showed rental prices in the Centro zone had leapt 14.9 percent last year alone.
“In the neighborhood of Sol, there are two tourists for every resident. In the Cortes neighborhood, the ratio is 1.3 tourists for every resident. This is what’s known as touristification,” explained José Manuel Calvo, city councilor for sustainable urban development during the plenary session on Wednesday.
“Mass tourism does not bring added value to cities, rather on the contrary, it degrades them,” he said.
The new regulations are going to affect properties currently rented out through portals such as AirBnB and HomeAway, which argue that the move is counterproductive and takes the tourist income away from local residents and back into the hands of big hotel chains.
The director general of Airbnb Marketing Services, Arnaldo Munoz, said he feared the new rule could cost the city economy hundreds of millions of euros.
The rental platform insisted the solution was to put to use “153,100 empty residences representing 10 percent of total Madrid dwellings,” citing a 2013 figure from Spain's National Statistical Institute.