• The Spanish rent trap

    Illustration: Raúl Arias, El Confidencial.

    Like many young-but-not-that-young Europeans in their thirties, my partner and I face a dilemma: should we continue renting or buy a house? Whatever the answer, one thing is clear: in Spain, we are lucky to be able to ask ourselves this question at all.

    For most young Spaniards, renting is not a choice. It is the only option available. Gone are the golden days when banks offered a 100% mortgage. Nowadays, financial institutions require at least 20% of the property price as a down payment. This is only possible for almost all young people in Spain if their older relatives can help out.

    Culturally, my country strongly favours buying over renting. I don’t have a single friend who would rather rent than own a house. Yet homeownership among the under 35s has almost halved in the last decade.

    But the alternative has not been a real solution. Despite the ongoing digital transformation, most young Spaniards still have to move to Madrid or Barcelona to find a job. This has sent rents through the roof, with respective annual increases of 15.4% and 19.9% in 2022 alone.

    There lies the Spanish rent trap. Ever-rising rents make it harder to save money, making it difficult to buy a property. This, in turn, means that young people stay in rented accommodation for longer. It’s a vicious circle that my partner and I, two of the lucky few, may be able to break free from, but it will keep younger generations trapped for decades.

    This article is part of the "Where will we live?" edition
    Poles stuck in tight rooms
    Number of the week
    The Spanish rent trap
    How to halve housing costs
    Our house is on fire