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Barcelona Finds a Way to Control Its Airbnb Market

The city’s latest move to limit vacation rentals could come in handy for other cities trying out their own regulations.
Pretty but packed. Barcelona's Airbnb rules are trying to help stop tourism overwhelming its old city.
Pretty but packed. Barcelona's Airbnb rules are trying to help stop tourism overwhelming its old city.Albert Gea/Reuters

Barcelona’s efforts to rid itself of illegal vacation apartments could be the most effective crackdown on Airbnb yet. Last month, the city told the site to remove 2,577 listings that it found to be operating without a city-approved license, or face a court case potentially leading to a substantial fine. Then on June 1, Airbnb and the city launched a new agreement that gives Barcelona officials access to data about what’s being listed around town.

For the first time, city officials will be able to refer to host data that details specifically where apartments are located and who their registered hosts are, something that could previously require substantial investigation. They will be able to track these hosts ID numbers to verify that their linked apartments do indeed have permission—and it will be far easier to pursue rule-breakers and, if necessary, fine them.