Spain will publish a price index for its rental market by March

MADRID, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Spain’s progressive government will publish an index of nationwide rental prices by the end of March, a spokesman for the Transport, Mobility, and Urban Planning ministry (MITMA) said on Wednesday.

The move represents a first step towards enabling rent controls in Spain, where rent has increased by 50% in the five years leading up to last August, according to a 2019 Bank of Spain report.

Limiting spikes in rental prices was one of the measures promised by Spain’s left-wing coalition government, which says guaranteeing the right to decent housing is a top priority.

Spain long boasted some of Europe’s highest property ownership rates, but since the financial crisis a growing number of Spaniards have been priced out of the market.

“The issue is an urgent one,” MITMA minister Jose Luis Abalos said in parliament on Wednesday. “We will facilitate regulation which limits (price) increases in certain areas where pressure on the rental market is high.”

To create the index, a working group of academics, statisticians and real estate experts is cross-referencing local registry data with records from the National Statistics Institute, according to the government’s housing department.

“This tool will allow councils and regional governments to detect exorbitant increases in rental prices in real time,” a source within MITMA told Reuters. “They decide whether they want to cap prices.”

The number of 30-34 year-olds living with their parents due to inaccessible rent prices increased sharply, a January report by the Bank of Spain noted. (Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette; additional reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Hugh Lawson)