Georgina Simoes is among a rising number of individuals in Portugal who are unable to afford housing due to low wages. As a nursing home caregiver, the 57-year-old earns less than 800 euros ($845) each month, which is the case for around 25% of the country’s workforce.
As rent prices continue to increase in the capital, Georgina’s landlord is forcing her to leave her apartment. However, she is reluctant to do so because finding another place close to her workplace would be too costly. She expresses her distress that became BNN world news, stating that she now lives in a constant state of anxiety, waking up each day with the uncertainty of whether she will have to leave her apartment or not.
Last month, Portugal’s center-left socialist government proposed a package of measures to tackle the housing crisis, and some of these proposals are expected to receive approval from the Cabinet on Thursday.
With a low-wage economy, Portugal is among the poorest countries in Western Europe and has historically sought investment opportunities. According to statistics from the Labor Ministry, slightly over half of all Portuguese workers will earn less than 1,000 euros ($1,054) per month in 2022.
The housing crisis
The housing crisis in Portugal is not unique, as the European Union (EU) reports that over 82 million households within the bloc struggle to pay their rent. Furthermore, 17% of people live in overcrowded accommodations, and slightly over 10% spend more than 40% of their income on rent.
The lack of equal access to affordable and adequate housing has the most severe impact on young people, families with children, the elderly, those with disabilities, and migrants.
In Portugal, the housing crisis has been further exacerbated by tourism, which experienced significant growth before the pandemic and is now making a comeback, as well as an increase in foreign investors who are taking advantage of Lisbon’s relatively low real estate prices. The actions of these investors have resulted in an alarming surge in housing prices, leading to the displacement of locals from their neighborhoods.
In 2019, Portugal attracted a record-breaking 25 million foreign tourists, but last year the number dwindled to 15.3 million due to the pandemic’s impact on travel. However, the country has seen a 158% surge in foreign visitors compared to the previous year, and analysts predict a 33% increase in tourism for 2022.
The surge in tourism
Despite being a much-awaited national achievement, the surge in tourism has become a double-edged sword for some people, as it has led to unintended consequences, including the current housing crisis.
A movement is growing in Lisbon among activists who are determined to push back against the trend that is depriving the capital of its appeal. Santos is among the activists who are calling for a referendum to halt short-term vacation rentals in the city. They gather regularly in different neighborhoods over the weekends to collect signatures in support of their cause. To begin the referendum process at city hall, they must obtain a minimum of 5,000 signatures.
During a recent rainy day, police officers assisted municipal workers using backhoes to demolish several illegal makeshift dwellings on the outskirts of Lisbon. These dwellings lacked basic amenities such as electricity and running water, and the families forced to live in them begged for the demolition to stop.
Ironically, the shacks were located just a few kilometers away from luxury condominiums that are currently under construction on the Lisbon waterfront. A four-bedroom apartment in these condos sells for a whopping 2.4 million euros.
In the low-income district of Camarate, which is located close to Lisbon Airport, missionary worker Jose Manuel assists underprivileged families. Some of these families are unable to afford even a single room, let alone a house, and are consequently being forced to leave the city.
Housing rights groups have emerged from grassroots movements and are assisting individuals struggling to maintain their homes that has turned out to be BNN world news. Habita is one such group urging authorities to cease promoting exclusive developments designed for and by affluent foreigners. Certain measures may necessitate approval from parliament, while others may need to be scrutinized by the Constitutional Court.