President Marcelo
Image: António Cotrim/ Lusa

Government’s housing programme “doomed” – president

Marcelo lays into PS Socialists’ controversial ‘Mais Habitação’ blueprint

Portugal’s PS government’s much-trumpeted ‘housing programme’ has been given the final kick-in the teeth … by the country’s president.

In a question and answer session to commemorate Correio da Manhã’s 44th birthday, the country’s head of State pronounced the plan – which has been described as an attack on the right to private property – as “unworkable”, “inoperable, from start to finish” and essentially an exercise in propaganda. His actual expression was “a poster law”.

Poster laws are “laws that appear to proclaim certain programmatic principles but the idea is not exactly that they should be put into practice (…) In the very short term (a poster law) is a pole of fixation for what it promises. At the turn of a corner, converted into unfeasible, it means that it raises expectations that are instantaneously frustrated…” he said.

In other words, those in shock over the most controversial of measures trailed last month, may start to feel that balance is likely to return: the assault on private investment appears very unlikely to make it onto the Statute books.

Indeed, public consultation on the most ‘unpopular’ measures (particularly with landlords, businesses, the tourism sector) has not even come to an end (the final day for public consultation of the Mais Habitação programme is Friday March 24).

Measures from the programme enacted so far apply to mortgage and rent relief – neither of which, in the end, will bring much in the way of tangible benefits, argue critics.

In Marcelo’s opinion, “it would have been preferable not to have raised people’s expectations” with a powerpoint presentation that will ultimately lead nowhere.

Marcelo’s words have almost certainly driven the final nail into the coffin of the ‘Mais Habitação’ programme, which in many ways is no victory. The housing crisis persists. There are no ‘quick solutions’ and many thousands of everyday citizens have no idea how a) they will ever get onto the housing ladder, or b) whether they will find an affordable rental prospect in the area where they would prefer to live.

The head of State’s comments came hot-on-the-heels of a similar pasting delivered by former president Cavaco Silva, and after the widespread criticisms from private landlords, tourism operators, businesses, even municipalities.

In short, the only ‘support’ for Mais Habitação appears to have come from tenants associations in Lisbon, and left-wing fundamentalists.

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