Photos by Pedro Lima, uploaded onto Facebook by Alojamento Local - Porto e Norte

Changes in holiday rental laws see owners protest in Porto

Over 300 bags placed in iconic square symbolise families whose futures are compromised

Dozens of AL (short-term holiday property) owners demonstrated in Porto yesterday against government measures brought in to further regulate the sector.

Their principal beef is with the power granted by the government to condominiums to dissolve their business.

In owners’ perspective, the development brings risks to tourism. It also severely compromises their own business activity.

Praça D. João was the venue for yesterday’s dramatic appeal for a re-think. The 304 bags, each representing 200 families, carried words in various languages related to tourism and complaints from the AL (alojamento local) sector.

Ana Sofia Rego, one of the owners involved, told Lusa: “we are protesting against the measures that will end the work we have created.

“During the crisis between 2008 and 2011, I was out of work. I gathered everything I had, with the help of my parents and my in-laws, and renovated a small aparment that had been empty for more than 20 years in the centre of Porto, thus creating my own job.

“Each of these 304 work bags symbolises families who, like me, depend on their small local accommodation business” to help finance their lives.

Ana Sofa referred to “a study carried out by the Local Accommodation Association of Portugal, which concluded that there are about 60,000 families in Portugal directly dependent on their local accommodation business“.

“This villainisation of small local accommodation holders is not having the media echo at international level that it should have and that should shame the government for what it is doing to small entrepreneurs“, she said.

The issue came to a head with the government’s polemic ‘Mais Habitação’ (More Housing) programme, that has been consistently watered down since its controversial presentation in February this year, but which still leaves tens of thousands of city-centre AL apartment businesses much worse off.

Calling the new charges “the Medina tax” (referring to current minister of finance Fernando Medina), Ana Sofia stressed there is also the ‘condominium tax’, in which, in her mindset, the government has “created an environment of hostility in which condominium owners, just because of prejudice and without any kind of complaint, can meet and decide to shut down AL businesses”.

On top of these two changes to an activity that until relatively recently was encouraged (and credited with having upgraded many inner city properties), Ana Sofia stressed there is also the government’s decision to ‘re-evaluate’ AL licences conceded – meaning that eventually (date given so far is 2030) they could be withdrawn.

Dubbing the new situation “a great injustice”, Ana Sofia’s explanations were echoed by others in the square.

Luís Baltazar added that it is important to draw attention that contrary to what is being conveyed (by the government/ through the press) – that AL is associated with large groups and large companies that monopolise the property market – when what underpins the sector are more often than not perfectly normal families who have one, two, three flats, “many of whom live exclusively from this business”.

“In my case, my wife lives 100 per cent from this”, Luís Baltazar told Lusa. “She has two flats where she does all the service, from cleaning to check-in and platform management”.

Source: Dinheiro Vivo/ Lusa