Concerted push against government’s polemic housing proposals
APR, the association of Portuguese residential and resort tourism, has come out fighting as pressure mounts to topple much of the government’s “Mais Habitação” proposals, presented last month as the solution for ‘fixing the country’s housing crisis’.
It claims investments of around €600 million could be lost, along with 1,000 jobs, if the decision to end ‘golden visas’ (or ARIs as they are officially called, standing for Authorisation of Residence for Investment) goes through.
At a moment when the government’s proposals are still under public discussion, there is enormous pressure on the executive to ‘rethink’.
Businesses, landlords, mayors, other political parties – not least PSD social democrats – are deeply critical of the more ‘radical’ measures – involving clamping down on short-term tourist rentals, and ‘coercively leasing’ vacant habitable properties – to the extent that MEP and CDS centre-right party president Nuno Melo is questioning the legality of the former in Brussels.
APR’s position is that the “complete extinction” of golden visas will have “serious economic impacts on the country”, as well as damaging Portugal’s credibility in the eyes of potential investors.
Said a statement put out by the association: “We would be hitting in a potentially irreparable way in the medium term essential sectors for Portugal that need foreign private investment — tourism, energy, health, logistics, among others — since the State does not have the capacity to respond, not even with the RRP (recovery and resilience plan, funding by Brussels).”
There is also the matter of how is the visa regime due to end? No-one knows. APR is concerned about projects currently underway. The immediate introduction of the changes now announced would “make many of these projects still under development unviable or at least imply a high loss of revenue“.
Thus there remains huge confusion over what will really come once the ‘public consultation period’ comes to an end, and the Council of Ministers meets to give final approval (next week) to the ‘Mais Habitação’ programme.
APR’s arguments, citing the revenues generated from the issuance of ARIs, comes at a time when Brussels has told Member States that budgetary rules, suspended for the last few years due to the pandemic/ war in Ukraine, will be returning in 2024. Can the government really afford to turn its back on the golden visa carrot to foreign investment in this context?
Mayors – most notably the PSD and Independents of Lisbon and Porto respectively – have also spoken out against the proposals; Rui Moreira (Porto) considering that the majority of them are “unworkable”. There are also the arguments that some proposals, particularly the idea of coercively leasing vacant habitable properties, could be unconstitutional.
Thus every sector likely to find their freedom to operate vastly reduced is speaking out. The public participation period ends on March 13 (Monday); the Council of Ministers is then expected to come up with its ‘final plan’ for approval on March 16 (one week’s time/ next Thursday).