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“I am the mountain, I am the sea,” sings Simon Neil on Biffy Clyro’s 2009 hit single, Mountains. Whilst unlikely to be the inspiration for the song, Neil could have been referring to Barcelona, which is sandwiched between the sea and mountains. This setting creates a scarcity of land and, on top of this, the supply of good quality, affordable properties is low when set against the strong demand in the city.

Barcelona, therefore, is ripe for investment. It is also a digital innovation hub, with PATRIZIA ranking the city #12 out of 142 for innovation in the PATRIZIA European City Pulse Index. Barcelona is an attractive city for students and a young workforce, so the demand for housing isn’t likely to disappear soon. “Barcelona is tight on housing supply thanks to a rental cap, which stunts development and limits the number of homes to rent,” explains PATRIZIA Country Head – Spain, Rita Torres. “However, the city’s stunning architecture, relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere, and great food, combined with its reputation as a dynamic digital hub, will continue to attract investors to the real estate market.”

This view is shared across the business with PATRIZIA this year securing two major deals in Barcelona, which will go some way to alleviate the housing pressure in the city. The first, completed in January, is a circa EUR 600 million investment on behalf of its clients in a high-quality residential portfolio. The portfolio of 10 newly built assets comprises 1,479 residential units in total, making it one of the largest-ever residential transactions in Spain.

The built-to-rent scheme is a rarity in Barcelona and, indeed, Spain, boasting a full amenities package including a fully equipped gym, a co-working area, a common area for tenants, a swimming pool and electric charging facilities for bicycles and cars. The apartments are fully furnished and there are plenty of smart building features, such as keyless entry into the building and smart meters. Whilst high quality, the apartments are also affordable, with most rents between EUR 1,000 and 1,600 per month.

PATRIZIA Fund Manager Sebastian Dietert, who oversaw the investment, comments: “Barcelona offers stable income return and long-term capital growth. For connectivity and innovation alone, Barcelona consistently ranks very highly in our PATRIZIA European Living Cities Report, which measures almost 150 cities also for their affordability and liquidity, helping clients develop a truly diversified European residential portfolio. The same report designates the city as ‘powerful’ due to its size and the significant role it plays in the daily life of its nation. And yet, Barcelona is undersupplied and underdeveloped for attractive build-to-rent schemes.

“In combination with our strong local knowledge, over 200 residential real estate professionals, plus our expert alternatives team, we delivered on a complex, structured investment for our clients. Using our AI technology, we found that the Barcelona assets are situated close to amenities with exciting future growth prospects, which augurs well for the investment.”

The second investment is in purpose-built student accommodation in the city’s centre on behalf of its institutional clients. Announced in August, the portfolio covers two assets with 538 beds – Marina in the 22@ district of the city and Poble Sec with 97, in Avinguda del Parallel, just south of the Gothic Quarter.

The 22@ district is becoming one of Barcelona’s most important student hubs, with more than 20,000 students studying in the area. Public transport in both areas is well-served and crucial amenities are within walking distance. Both assets have desirable amenities, including a private gym, a common lounge, study/meeting rooms, an on-site lecture theatre and five rooftop swimming pools.

“The rising mobility of Spain’s student population and the growing appeal among foreign students wanting to study in cities like Barcelona means that there is a structural undersupply of high-quality purpose-built student accommodation in Spain,” Rita explains. “Our recent acquisition in Barcelona ticks all those boxes and more, with strong local amenities and transport links.”

The two investments are extensions of PATRIZIA’s living cities strategy, with the PATRIZIA European City Pulse Index utilised by local experts to fully understand the cities where they live and work. The Index then helps inform tactics that optimise returns for PATRIZIA’s clients.

The latter investment also increases PATRIZIA’s student accommodation portfolio across Europe. Antonio Marin-Bataller, PATRIZIA Managing Director - Pan-European Transactions, comments: “Occupancy rates are nearing record highs in many European cities as students return to universities and the overall number of students is on the rise, even compared to pre-Covid. Therefore, we will continue to thoughtfully select PBSA opportunities in Europe in those cities that have a strong spirit of innovation and connectivity.”

Barcelona scores highly on innovation and connectivity in PATRIZIA’s European City Pulse Index. Connectivity-wise, Barcelona was the first city in southern Europe to create urban 5G test beds and, through government plans, is seeking to be a blueprint for smart cities worldwide.

When it comes to innovation, nowhere in the city is this more apparent than the 22@ district, which is one of Europe’s most significant urban renewal projects and is home to global firms such as Amazon, Facebook and Vodafone. In addition to PATRIZIA’s PBSA investment in 22@, the company has already invested in various office developments in the district.

Most notable is the Entegra building, which is designed to be a near-zero energy building (NZEB). With a carbonised wood exterior which is aesthetically striking and a powerful building systems manager which keeps ventilation costs down to a minimum, the building is an excellent example of the innovation typical of 22@.

A hub for business, tech, innovation and students, Barcelona is a highly desirable location that PATRIZIA will continue to keep a close eye on for future investments.


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