Inês Franco Alexandre
Inês Franco Alexandre has parachuted into the housing debate, suggesting a protest camp on Lisbon's Abril 25 bridge

Housing work now underway funded by Brussels

Focus on Portugal’s housing ‘crisis’ amplifies following Mouraria fire

The tragic fire last week in Lisbon, in an overcrowded property without required permissions, has suddenly focused national attention on the ‘housing crisis’ in Portugal.

On television yesterday, Inês Franco Alexandre (photo above) – government advisor in the field of Innovation, has proposed a mass occupation of Lisbon’s Abril 25 bridge “as a form of protest to the housing problems in Portugal”.

“We can camp on the bridge. Close the bridge until we are heard…” she told the RTP3 show “A Minha Geração”.

It is unclear how far advanced Ms Alexandre’s plan is; even if it is a plan, but as Observador online has remarked, it comes just as the current Executive is preparing to approve a new legislative package on housing

According to Expresso this week, one of the measures that will be part of the package is a “permanent rent support mechanism” for young people and families who have a sudden drop in their income for reasons such as unemployment, divorce or illness.

Meantime in Greater Lisbon district authorities have a number of housing construction projects already launched under the PRR recovery and resilience programme, “enabling there to be, in the future, more houses with affordable rents”, says Lusa.

After a conference held yestereday, organised by SIC Notícias and real estate company Century 21 on the challenges of affordable housing, Carla Tavares, Amadora mayor and president of the metropolitan council of Lisbon, told Lusa that the PRR is an opportunity that cannot be missed for the area of housing.

40 of the 85 applications submitted by Greater Lisbon municipalities have already been approved, she said – including projects related to student housing and temporary accommodation.

The applications represent an investment of €300 million – funded by the PRR.

“Each municipality develops its own process”, Tavares continued, explaining that each municipality “has rules on how the rental mechanisms should work”.

Carla Tavares was joined on a panel (focusing on the impact of housing in various municipalities) by the mayors of Vila Nova de Gaia and of the metropolitan council of Porto, Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues.

Both “recognised the difficulties in accessing housing and called for coordinated responses”, writes Lusa.

“We currently have a situation that is moving faster than the answers“, said Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues, warning that the middle class “collapses” with “lease renewals” of rents that it cannot afford.

Carla Tavares highlighted that in the Lisbon metropolitan area alone there are “around 50,000 households living in substandard housing“.

The chair of the metropolitan council of Porto said she believed that the isolated freezing of rents has a “perverse effect” and suggested fiscal support, among which in the personal income tax (IRS) of landlords and a subsidised credit scheme (with lower interest rates) to help young people buy their own homes.

Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues also added that one has to “look at housing in the immediate term” and then to “mobility problems”, which he said are “unsolved” in the metropolitan area of Porto.

All in all, the national conversation on housing has ‘arrived’ – catapulted into the media by an awful fire that exposed just how desperate the situation has become for those with limited means.

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