Measures are still to be discussed in Parliament, where more opposition is expected, and, after being approved, presented to President of the Republic
The government’s latest version of its ‘Mais Habitação’ (More Housing) programme to tackle the country’s housing crisis was presented this afternoon in Almada, with dozens of protestors making themselves heard nearby.
The briefing was led by Prime Minister António Costa, alongside Minister of Housing Marina Gonçalves, and Minister of Finance Fernando Medina. Government officials were in the Setúbal district as part of the “Closer Government” (Governo+Próximo) initiative to bring political decision-makers closer to the people.
And the people certainly made sure their presence was felt as dozens stood nearby holding a “whistle protest” throughout the entire press conference, which announced how the government intended to address the housing crisis.
Here are some of the main measures:
- State-owned land or buildings are to be offered up to private developers for the development of affordable housing projects.
- Taxes on rentals to decrease from 28% to 25% and progressively over the years.
- End of golden visas: António Costa says “nothing justifies the special treatment” given by the scheme. Out of 11,758 golden visas granted, only 22 generated employment, PM adds. Existing golden visas will be converted into normal residency permits. New requests will be evaluated according to existing laws.
- Alojamento Local (AL, short-term holiday rentals) restrictions only apply to apartments and will not be enforced in the Madeira and Azores archipelagos or “low density municipalities”. Local councils will manage AL licensing by assessing the need for accessible housing within the municipality. Extraordinary tax reduced from 35% to 25%. “Every house that is used for AL is another house not being used by a family,” says Costa.
- Costa “perplexed” by controversy surrouding “coercive leasing”; once again, it will only apply to apartments, which have been considered “derelict” for at least two years. After being considered “derelict” for two years, local councils will contact owners to offer a rent proposal that is “30% above the average price in that parish”. Only if the owner refuses or fails to respond will the local council move forward with the “coercive leasing”.
- Rural buildings that aren’t being used to be charged IMI municipal property tax as if they were “urban properties”. Said Costa, “there are property owners who purchase land and then do not use it, and just wait for prices to increase, but as it is classified as a rural property, it pays less IMI than a house.”
- Government housing support portal Porta 65 Jovem will be open to applications in an attempt to help the “emancipation of young adults”.
- A new programme entitled Porta 65 + has also been created to help families who have been affected by a reduction of income or for single parents.
These measures are still due to be discussed in Parliament, where more opposition is expected, and, after being approved, presented to President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who has described the programme as “inoperable”. Marcelo has admitted vetoing some of the measures.
“This is our job, proposing solutions to problems. We will respect the debate in Parliament. Then the President will either promulgate or veto,” said Costa.
The PM also addressed the social upheaval caused by the programme. Protests were held today in Faro, Lisbon and Porto against the government’s proposed changes to the Local Lodging (Alojamento Local, or AL) short-term rentals scheme.
“We have lived in a democracy for 50 years and social protests are normal, especially surrounding a very sensitive and divisive topic,” said António Costa, guaranteeing that he does not believe any of the proposed measures are unconstitutional.
“But if they are declared unconstitutional, we will respect” the decision, the PM added.
Protest for “right to housing” on Saturday
A protest for the “right to housing” is due to take place on Saturday, April 1 in six towns and cities – Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra, Lisbon, Porto and Viseu.
Organisers say the demonstration’s goal is to guarantee a “dignified home for everyone” and the “end of exploitation and the rising cost of living.”
The event is part of the Housing Action Days 2023, organised by the European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and Right to City, and will bring together around 100 associations, from tenants associations to human rights, LGBTQIA+, environmental and working rights associations.
“We are people who live in neighbourhoods and often have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table,” organisers say.
“We cannot pay our rents and our bank loans,” they lament, adding that this happens at a time when “businesses flourish around tourism, holiday rentals (AL) and speculation.”
“Who can (afford to) live in cities today,” they ask, stressing that rents have increased 40% in the last five years, according to data from the National Statistics Institute released in September 2022.
The demonstrations are scheduled for 3pm and will take place in Aveiro (Praça Melo Freitas), Braga (Coreto da Avenida Central), Coimbra (Praça 8 de Maio), Lisbon (Alameda), Porto (Batalha) and Viseu (Praça da República).