MADRID - Spain is scrapping its ‘golden visa scheme’ that gives residency to foreign property buyers in a blow to wealthy UK expats.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters on Monday that ending the scheme would help make access to affordable housing "a right instead of a speculative business".

The scheme awards non-EU citizens investing at least 500,000 euros (£429,000) - without taking out a mortgage - in Spanish real estate with a special permit allowing them to live and work in the country for three years.

"Today, 94 out of every 100 such visas are linked to real estate major cities that are facing a highly stressed market and where it's almost impossible to find decent housing for those who already live, work and pay their taxes there," Mr Sanchez said.

He added the government would launch the process to eliminate the scheme in Tuesday's weekly cabinet meeting after studying a report submitted by the Housing Ministry.

Spain introduced its golden visa in September 2013 to encourage wealthy foreigners to invest in real estate to boost the Spanish economy in the wake of the financial crisis.Neighbouring Portugal has recently revamped its own "golden visa" scheme and excluded real estate investment to tackle a housing crisis. Foreigners who want to secure residency rights can still put their money into investment funds.

The European Commission has long called for an end to all such programmes, citing security risks.

Spain is one of the most popular destinations for British expats in Europe with 2020 figures showing 303,000 living there.

The golden visa scheme allowed expats with holiday homes in Spain to dodge rules limiting non-EU citizens to a 90-day stay in EU countries without needing a visa.