The Perils Of The “Shared Flat Generation”

2 October 2017 – El Periódico

Sharing a flat is no longer the exclusive domain of students. First, the economic crisis and now, soaring rental prices, with Barcelona leading the way, are forcing more and more citizens to rent a room (rather than an entire home). According to the recent annual shared flat report from, demand for rooms for rent in Spain rose by 78.1% during the first six months of this year. The queues of the “shared flat generation” are continuing to grow.

The profile of people sharing flats has changed. “Traditionally, they were students, but now there are increasingly more qualified professionals”, says Beatriz Toribio, Head of Research at Fotocasa. Renting a home, not to mention buying one, falls outside of the economic reach of many citizens in the context of the exit from the crisis and the accelerated genesis of a new real estate bubble.

“There has been a change in mentality. Before the crisis, renting was not an option. But now it is the most flexible alternative in a changing world”, adds Toribio. In Spain, the average age of the “shared flat generation” is 29 years. They are young people, who essentially come from middle and middle-upper social classes, living in regional capitals and large cities. 81% of flat sharers are aged between 18 and 34 years and they tend to share with 2 people on average.

Such is the case, for example, of Nelson Bisbal (pictured above, left), a 31-year old engineer who lives in El Eixample, Barcelona. “I share a flat with two other people. Living by yourself is not feasible nowadays”, he says. Nelson and his flatmates pay just over €800 (per month) between the three of them. “If I had a flat to myself, I would have to give up other things. Very few of my friends live by themselves”. Nelson spends 25% of his salary on his monthly rental payments (…).

According to Sergio Nasarre, Professor of Civil Law and Director of the UNESCO Housing Project at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) (…), one of the parties responsible for this “cohousing” phenomenon are the tourist home platforms. “Airbnb, for example, has made it more profitable to rent a home to a foreign visitor than to a resident of the city. People now have no choice but to go and live in rooms rather than rent out entire homes”, he adds.

Although most of the people who share homes are in their 20s and 30s, there is also another reality: that of middle-aged people who are forced to share a home. Contributing factors include, to a large extent, the high level of unemployment and the loss of purchasing power as a result of price rises and salary decreases.

Black market rents

(…). Obtaining figures about how many people share homes is difficult given that many renters sublet rooms. According to the group of Technicians at the Ministry of Finance (Gestha), 41.4% of rents in Spain are black market arrangements (…).

Paying for a room, rather than for a flat, excludes tenants from the protections offered by the Urban Letting Law (LAU). Many people sublet so that they can afford to live or pay the rent, but many others do it to make a profit (…).

“During the real estate boom, a phenomenon emerged involving the overcrowding of homes with immigrants. They rented rooms in shifts”, says Nasarre. The situation in Barcelona at the moment (which is the city with the highest rental prices in Spain) is not unique; cities like Paris and London are suffering from even more extreme situations, he says.

This housing expert proposes, amongst other measures, administrative controls and the strengthening of tenants’ rights. He also opts for “decentralisation”. “All of the major universities, hospitals, are in Barcelona. Decentralising certain services would strengthen territorial cohesion”.

Original story: El Periódico (by Beatriz Pérez)

Translation: Carmel Drake