Co-living: Part 1

Week 3... my biggest challenge so far - finding accommodation.

When I first decided to come to Barcelona I made the assumption that it would be easy to find a place to stay for a few months at a time, with Airbnb, a whole host of similar services, Facebook Groups and a growing network of friends of friends, I thought that someone would at least have a spare room they wanted to make a bit of extra money on.

Turns out I was right - lots of people do have ‘rooms’ - and everyone wants to make money from them.

This Facebook advert says it all, it made me laugh out loud but at the same time, it really highlights the accommodation crisis that’s starting to happen here in Barcelona and I expect in many other cities around the world too.

From speaking to people living and working here, locals and expats, it seems that in the last 12 months Barcelona is starting to experience the same issues that London already has, when it comes to finding an affordable place to stay - it’s the new hot topic of conversation around the co-workspace coffee bar.

There’s no doubt that tourism has a huge part to play here in Barcelona, but what I’ve realised is that people like me, 'digital nomads' or ‘cultural immigrants’ are also part of the problem. We choose cities like Barcelona because the standard of living is good, the cost of living seems relatively low, there is cultural diversity, creativity and a multicultural vibe. We’re being paid overseas salaries that compared with local salaries are relatively high (I’m told), so for us, life has the potential to be sweet.

But, accommodation is in demand and rent is rising, fast.

My first job in London was slap bang in the middle of Soho where there was a mix of media agencies, post production houses, music venues, brothels, market stalls, independent restaurants and the odd greasy spoon cafe. By the time I left, 6 years later the creative agency I worked for had been kicked out of our studio, destined to be ‘developed’ into multi-million-pound loft apartments. The market stalls had been moved on, music venues closed down and where small independents thrived, big chains were taking over. All in all, it felt very sad. I still love Soho and I’m sure it’s still a vibrant eclectic place but perhaps not so much as it used to be.

So what to do when you feel part of the problem?

I haven’t figured that one out yet but I hear that the Mayor of Barcelona is taking some pretty radical steps to try and kerb the emerging crisis. It’ll be interesting to experience how a city like Barcelona can navigate through a recovering economy and an influx of cultural immigrants and digital nomads, like me.

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