Landlords of empty buildings be warned: the government wants to impound them!

Abandoned homes and properties left “unjustifiably vacant” could temporarily pass into the hands of the State.

This is the basis of proposals coming under discussion in parliament today in preparation for the country’s first Housing Law.

Ruling PS Socialists and left-wingers Bloco de Esquerda and PCP communists have all come up with ideas to change the miserable status quo: a country where reasonable rents are in short supply while “hundreds of thousands of buildings” remain empty.

Explain reports, the three proposals seek to ‘sanction’ owners who leave properties unused, though they vary in their methods.

BE for example sets out to “temporarily requisition” vacant homes, while PCP use the term “administrative possession”.

Only PS Socialists seem prepared to “indemnify” owners for the time their properties are ‘taken’ – while centre-right parties PSD and CDS have championed no proposals at all.

Indeed, according to CDS MP Álvaro Castello-Branco, the very idea of requisitioning private properties is “straight out of a communist regime like Venezuela”.

The national association of property owners is equally indignant.

“This is a complete hijacking of owners who haven’t got the wherewithal to do building work”, says the association’s president António Frias Marques.

Marques agrees that he is aware of the “serious lack of housing” available for reasonably-priced rentals in Portugal, but taking over private properties “is not the answer”.

Instead of “attack”, the government should be using empty State properties by launching programmes to support rehabilitation, he said.

The nitty-gritty will be hammered out in due course, but as left-wingers have tried to explain, properties ‘taken’ will eventually be returned in much-improved order.

“The objective is to rehabilitate”, PCP’s Paula Santos told reporters. The property would then be rented out and “later returned to the owner”.

Unanswered questions include “how much later”, and what really is the definition of “unjustifiably vacant”?

As for the pool of empty properties, even the association of property owners agrees, “it is around a million…”

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