What you need to know about Madrid’s plan to limit private tourist rentals

This week Madrid's city hall adopted a plan to regulate short-term holiday rentals in a bid to preserve neighbourhoods from being overrun with tourists and pricing out local residents.

What you need to know about Madrid's plan to limit private tourist rentals
A sloping street in Lavapiés. Photo: Leah Pattem

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.

90-day rule

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.

Separate entrance

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

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.


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.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Madrid's new traffic restrictions

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The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years

Jordi Faulí is the seventh chief architect of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia since Antoni Gaudi began work on the basilica in 1883, and he had been expected to oversee its long-awaited completion.

The architect trying to finish the Sagrada Familia after 138 years
Jordi Faulí is the seventh architect director of the Sagrada Familia following Antoni Gaudi and, for many, the one destined to finish it. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

But the pandemic has delayed efforts to finish this towering architectural masterpiece, which has been under construction for nearly 140 years, and it is no longer clear whether Faulí will still be in charge when it is finally done.

“I would like to be here for many more years, of course, but that’s in God’s hands,” says Faulí, 62, a wry smile on his lips.

He was just 31 when he joined the architectural team as a local in 1990 — the same age as Gaudi when the innovative Catalan architect began building his greatest work in the late 19th century, a project that would take up four decades of his life.

“When I arrived, only three of these columns were built and they were only 10 metres (33 feet) high,” he explains from a mezzanine in the main nave.

“I was lucky enough to design and see the construction of the entire interior, then the sacristy and now the main towers.”

When finished, the ornate cathedral which was designed by Gaudi will have 18 towers, the tallest of which will reach 172 metres into the air.

READ ALSO: Pandemic to delay completion fate for Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia

The second-highest tower, which is 138 metres tall and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday with the illumination of the gigantic 5.5-tonne star crowning its highest point.

It is the tallest of the nine completed towers and the first to be inaugurated since 1976.

The long-awaited completion of Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia will no longer happen in 2026 because the coronavirus epidemic has curtailed its construction and frustrated funding, basilica officials admitted. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP
Construction halted by Civil War

In 2019, the Sagrada Familia welcomed 4.7 million visitors, making it Barcelona’s most visited monument.

But it was forced to close in March 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, with its doors staying shut for almost a year.

This year, there have been barely 764,000 visitors, municipal figures show.

And as entry tickets are the main source of funding for the ongoing building works, the goal of finishing the basilica by 2026 to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death — he was run over by a tram — has been abandoned.

“We can’t give any estimate as to when it will be finished because we don’t know how visitor numbers will recover in the coming years,” Faulí says.

It is far from the first time Gaudi’s masterpiece has faced such challenges.

During the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, construction work stopped and many of Gaudi’s design plans and models were destroyed.

For critics, this major loss means they do not view what was built later as Gaudi’s work, despite the research carried out by his successors.

READ ALSO: Central spire will make the Sagrada Familia tallest church in the world

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime.

But Faulí insists the project remains faithful to what Gaudi had planned as it is based on the meticulous study of photographs, drawings and testimony from the late Modernist architect.

UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, has only granted World Heritage status to the Sagrada Familia’s crypt and one of its facades, both of which were built during Gaudi’s lifetime. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

Some local opposition

Nominated chief architect of the project in 2012, Faulí took over at the head of a team of 27 architects and more than 100 builders.

Today, there are five architects and some 16 builders working to finish the Sagrada Familia.

“It is a lot of responsibility because it’s an iconic project, which many people have an opinion about,” says Faulí.

Building such a vast monument which draws huge numbers of visitors is not welcomed by everyone, with some arguing that the hoards of visiting tourists are destroying the area.

Many also oppose plans to build an enormous staircase leading up to the main entrance, the construction of which will involve the demolition of several buildings, forcing hundreds to relocate.

“My life is here and they want to throw me out,” says one sign on a balcony near the Sagrada Familia.

Faulí said he understands their concerns and wants to find “fair solutions” through dialogue.

And if he could ask Gaudi one question? Faulí pauses to reflect for a few moments.

“I would ask him about his underlying intentions and what feelings he wanted to communicate through his architecture,” he says.