homeless person
The number of people unable to afford a roof over their heads has been rising exponentially in recent years. Image: Paulo Pimenta/ Lusa

High rents in Algarve see increasing numbers seek emergency help

Government’s 6.94% rent cap stands for very little

In Portugal’s southernmost region, the high price of housing is driving more and more people to the Algarve Social Emergency Accommodation Centre (CAES), on the outskirts of Faro, whose help has been crucial to preventing a number of families from sleeping rough.

The head of the Algarve CAES, Fábio Simão, told Lusa that there are many factors that prompt people in precarious situations to seek out the centre, but said that he has no doubt that the housing crisis is the main one.

“We’re talking about people some of whom work, but there’s no response: there are no houses to rent,” he said. “In fact, there are no decent houses for people to live in.”

The centre, which is housed in a previously vacant building provided by Portugal’s Ministry of Agriculture, in Braciais, on the outskirts of Faro, has welcomed 154 people since it opened in September 2022.

According to Simão, rents nowadays are an average from €500 to €700 for a studio or a one-bedroom apartment.

“This is unfeasible for those earning the minimum wage,” he said.

Individuals and families “in an unprotected situation” and without the means to pay for a home end up coming to CAES.

“CAES aims to prevent people from living on the streets,” said Simão, who is involved in various projects to help the most disadvantaged. 

With the current lack of affordable housing, CAES offers valuable support for three months; at most, six months, writes Lusa.

According to Simão, who is also president of the Aids Support Movement (MAPS), the number of people in need of help in the Algarve has increased in recent months. While the number of homeless people used to decrease at this time of year, between summer and Christmas, this year that has not happened.

The Algarve CAES has 46 beds, but only 30 have been occupied from the start, under protocols with Social Security (which has 25 beds) and the municipality of Faro (which has five).

The investment in this social facility was €700,000 – with support from the municipality (€180,000) and the rest guaranteed by MAPS, the organisation that presented the CAES project, including a €310,000 bank loan.

Much of the furniture and equipment in the building has been donated by companies and hotels, but there have also been donations from private individuals.

Lusa spoke to one of the centre’s users, Ana (not her real name), who is there with her sick and unemployed husband and three-year-old son. She told Lusa that she feels welcomed, stressing that the CAES staff “are always ready to help.”

The family left the house “in poor conditions” they were renting for €250 a month on the Ilha da Culatra, an island off the coast at Faro, because the landlady needed the place to house her son who, in turn, had been forced to leave a room that he had been renting.

Ana does not hide her anguish at the situation she faces, and is not yet sure if she’ll be able to turn her life around during the three months that she can stay at the support centre.

Another case of a person unable to afford housing is that of Maria, a mother with two daughters aged four and seven, who said that she was “evicted” from her home in Portimão and was then unable to find accommodation on her return to Faro. 

Before arriving at CAES, Maria camped with her daughters for two and a half months on Faro beach

According to figures provided to Lusa, around 70% of the people helped at CAES are Portuguese nationals, 20% are from other European countries and 10% are from outside Europe.

On the opposite end of the scale, are people already paying high rents, in urban centres like Lisbon, who have suddenly been told their rents are increasing way beyond the government’s 6.94% rental cap.

The Resident has just been contacted by an American, living in Lisbon, paying €2,100 a month for an apartment and being told that as of January that rent is being increased to €2,400 – a rise of 14.2%.

Source material: LUSA