Easier home building: government explains

New housing programme allows for reclassification of rustic land to urban

A joint presentation by the ministers of housing (Marina Gonçalves) and digitalisation and administrative modernisation (Mário Campolargo) in Algés yesterday put some flesh on the bones of the government’s pledge to make the building of homes in Portugal less complicated.

Various measures were explained, all of them ostensibly designed to speed up the process.

Perhaps the most instantly ‘exciting’ (for landowners) being the “possibility of reclassification, in a simpler way, from rustic soil to urban soil in areas that are adjacent to urban soils”.

Rustic land classification precludes house-building – yet many people (both nationals and foreigners) live on rustic land in temporary dwellings; or buildings classified as ‘warehouses’. This means their ‘properties’ are often considered to be ‘illegal’ (for the purposes of housing); difficult to sell. People living in them can be liable to fines. Thus this one measure alone could help many thousands.

It will mean, for example, that parents owning a property made up of urban land and rustic land could ostensibly be able to get part of their rustic land reclassified to urban, so that children still living in the family home have a chance to build nearby (without having to pay the elevated prices for urban land somewhere else).

But this was only one measure announced – part of the wider ‘Mais Habitação’ programme. The measure also includes the possibility of converting land and buildings currently used for commerce and services to housing.

Other measures seek to respond to the complexity of the licensing processes, to the slowness arising from decisions required, to the ambiguity of municipal regulations and to what Lusa describes as “obsolete procedures and difficult human validation”. 

What was not instantly clear from the presentation was whether these new rules were to apply as to private individuals as ‘investors’ intent on creating housing projects.

Describing the “creation of a model of tacit deferment for decisions by municipal councils”, housing minister Gonçalves said this would “guarantee the approval of requests in case municipalities do not comply with legal deadlines”. She then went on to address the establishment of mandatory procedural and single act conferences in projects of potential national interest (PIN), when they involve an investment exceeding €25 million, or when they are financed by European Funds or the RRP (EU recovery and resilience programme).

Lusa explains that “the repeal of “excessive requirements” in the construction of housing is also on the table.

“There is a task here to repeal all procedural norms that are today in a diploma that should only serve for technical norms and also eliminate some excessive demands that were being made, namely regarding the type of kitchen or in the needs or requirements of bathrooms,” said the housing minister.

For now, it appears that an online platform will be created that, “besides simplifying and concentrating in a single place the presentation of requests”, will allow citizens to consult the status of processes and deadlines and receive electronic notifications of notices and/ or obtain certificates of exemption in urbanistic procedures.

“Besides these advances, and focusing more on the area of digitalisation, one of the great advances that will occur will be the use of BIM, an acronym for building information modelling, a work methodology that uses the 3D model to represent and manage information about a building or infrastructure,” which will be implemented in stages, added Mário Campolargo.

Both ministers said these measures come “from a consultation with the entire sector, including municipalities, designers and contractors”.

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