Malaga has become prohibitively expensive. / ÑITO SALAS

Bye to let

Malaga has become the very thing Madrid was twenty years ago: too expensive for the locals

Peter Edgerton

About twenty years ago, as a result of an ill-fated flirtation with a Spanish record company, I found myself looking frantically for accommodation in Madrid at the start of September.

As anyone who has indulged in any similar folly knows, this is the equivalent of dropping a grain of sand in the Manzanares river and then trying to fish it out with a pair of tweezers. At night.

In one particularly disturbing episode, I wound up in a queue of about twenty people, all of whom had come at the same time to see the same room in a shared flat. One bloke was yelling up at an open window - I'm not sure it even corresponded to the accommodation in question - that he would offer the owner twice the rent that had been asked for (it was already equivalent to the national al GDP), which, of course, made him very popular indeed with the assembled crowd.

Meanwhile, a young woman was openly weeping, pleading with all concerned to let her have the room because her entire life would be ruined if she didn't get it. It was just about then that I decided that my entire life would be ruined if I did get it, and beetled off to the nearest bar to drown my sorrows and plan a swift return to my beloved Malaga on the back of a serviette.

Two decades later, it's Malaga itself which is subject to a similar state of affairs as long-term rented accommodation becomes ever more scarce in the city amid the stampede to board the holiday-let gravy train.

The few places that remain on the market are prohibitively expensive for the locals and so tourists find themselves in the grip of one of the biggest paradoxes since Achilles and the Tortoise.

The thing is, the Holy Grail for many who travel is to be able to immerse themselves in a different culture, revelling in its customs and mixing with local people on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it's difficult to mix with local people on a daily basis, let alone revel in their customs, if there aren't any around because they've all been priced out of town.

Hence the currently ubiquitous spectacle of terraces rammed with people munching gamely on Spanish tapas, very few of whom are actually Spanish.

I'm not sure what the answer to all of this is, although it does make you wonder how things are going in Madrid these days. Maybe that room's free.