Carlos Moedas
Carlos Moedas is deeply critical of the PS government's proposals for housing. Image: António Pedro Santos/ Lusa

Lisbon mayor proposes buying flats from owners to raise council supply

Carlos Moedas has been fierce critic of government’s proposal to coercively lease properties

The Mayor of Lisbon is proposing to buy houses from private individuals so that the city can increase its supply of affordable housing.

It is an acquisition that will be made with funds from the Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), and follows the roll-out of government proposals that involve ‘coercive renting’ from private owners.

Explains the Carlos Moedas: “We looked at the money we have from the RRP and thought ‘we won’t be able to build everything ourselves, but there are many houses that we can be buying, buildings that we can buy’,” he said at the presentation yesterday of the Municipal Housing Charter of Lisbon.

To implement the idea, proposed by housing councillor Filipa Roseta (PSD), the mayor said he has already asked the municipal director of heritage to “immediately start launching programmes for the purchase of buildings in Lisbon, of apartments that are vacant”, in which the municipality buys and becomes the owner of the property, without interfering with private property rights (as the government is proposing).

“We will start already this year. We already have part of the budget dedicated, but we have, above all, the possibility of also taking from the RRP”, said Mr Moedas, recalling that Lisbon has €343 million from the RRP to intervene in housing until 2026 – with the majority of the sum destined for construction, an option in which “times are long” in terms of execution.

In this sense, the purchase of flats already built would be “a faster solution”, in which the council can use the right of preference in the transaction of properties and, “with that, afterwards, have cheaper housing,” he suggested

“We’re not talking here about buying impeccable flats in the city centre from private individuals, that wouldn’t make sense, but there are many buildings that are often half-abandoned, that for historical reasons have sometimes not been sold, and we can intervene and buy at a price that allows us, obviously, to have an affordable rent,” explained the mayor, adding that these are, above all, vacant houses, which will need work.

The housing councillor says the council has €8 million from the municipal budget and €14 million from the RRP for the acquisition of apartments – noting that in the European money there is room for redistribution of funds between the option for new construction, which “will depend a lot on what there is on the market to buy”.

We will ask this question: who wants to sell? If I buy buildings, I no longer have to build them”, Filipa Roseta pointed out, assuring that the council will not buy property at speculative prices.

Considering this proposal a stimulus to the recovery of vacant areas of the city, Filipa Roseta said that “the most likely is that owners appear with properties that are not spotless, so they need work”. The council buys them, does the work and rents them out at affordable prices.

Questioned about whether buying from private parties is the right choice, even with the council’s history of disposing of properties, Filipa Roseta stressed the council is “trying everything” to respond to the housing problem, in which this proposal “is just another instrument of all the others that are in progress”.