The street is not a choice – we want houses’

Once upon a pre-Covid time, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa promised that he would personally see to it, that all 400 homeless in the capital got off the street in 2023. Since the new virus hijacked the country’s economy very little has changed. In fact, there are a lot more new faces on the street.

On the 15th of June tens of homeless people gathered before Parliament to express their displeasure. Sara – one of the protesters – has no job and feels discriminated against by the government. ‘I am not a number, I am a person. We have a right to housing!’

Many homeless people, don’t believe in shelters as they lump too many problematic individuals together under one roof.
The best solution would be to discuss with the homeless the needs of each and every one.

‘The government give us a minimum income of 189 euros per month but that is not nearly enough to rent a room.
When the landlords know we are homeless, they ask a six months deposit for a room.
There are a lot of abandoned houses in Lisbon. Why can’t they be used to rehouse the homeless?’

Manuel Grilo – Lisbon’s councillor for Education and Social Rights – declared that since the beginning of the pandemic 500 homeless people have been attended in four emergency centres created by the municipality.

47 of them have been referred to the Housing First program, a project financed by the City Council in which people are integrated into individual housing and supported by professionals. The municipality hopes that by the end of the year a total of 380 people will be accommodated through this program.

According to Guerreiro – another homeless protester in front of Parliament – the councillor of the Left Bloc lives out of reality. ‘Until today, there is not one municipal house attributed to a homeless person!’

In order to judge the evolution of homeless cases ‘on the ground’, the President recently paid a visit to the Avenida AlmiranteReis, Cais do Sodré and Santa Apolonia in Lisbon.

‘It is sad to see that the new crisis means an increase in homelessness, especially among young people. Now saying that the 2023 goal will be met, would be a lie with over 100.000 unemployed in Portugal due to Covid’.

Stay healthy                 Fique saudável             (pic PtRes/Público/JEcon)


Room with a view in the center – Martim Moniz – 18 m²,  1300 euro/month

‘No, it is not okay’, mutters João. ‘We got a letter from the landlord the other day. Our contract expires in November. He wants to increase the rent from 300 to 800 euro a month and reduce the contract period to one year. I’ am sure he’ll increase the rent again next year.
But it’s too much, I can’t afford that.’

Joao is a stocky, compact fellow. Looks like 60. Blue eyes, strong hands. Works as a gardener nearby. Says he can’t stay at home during the day with a depressive wife complaining all day.

 ‘Where do you live?’, I ask
Principe Real, for 37 years. My daughter and grandson are born in that same place. It’s a nice neighbourhood.
‘I bet’, I say. ‘And very popular among tourist these days. I’ve heard Jamie Oliver has opened an Italian restaurant there somewhere’. My wife doesn’t like Italian’, he grumbles.

Almost half a million tenants are awaiting the same fate as João. Most of the rental agreements signed last year in Lisbon were for one year only. The good news is that the socialist government wants to intervene in the overheated housing market and overrule the Rental Law (Lei das Rendas) of 2012, when the former conservative government liberalized the real estate sector. 

Within five years rents in Lisbon increased by 36%.
Prime minister António Costa now wants that landlords – who let their dwellings for 20% below the market value for a period of at least 3 years – are given tax benefits.
The longer the contract the greater the benefit!

‘Sounds nice’, moans João ‘but 80% of 800 is still too much.’
Ho, Ho. I am not finished yet’, I continue.

Housing is a priority for this government, that wants to build more affordable accommodation and has set aside 1,7 billion euros to give 26.000 needy families – half of them from Lisbon – a decent home within six years. It also intends to give municipalities the right to claim vacant properties for social habitation.

Well, it’s a pity I’ am not one of those families and six years is a long time, especially at my age’, João replies.
‘No, I’ am afraid we’ll have to leave the city center. It’s a shame, selling the capital to the well-off and the numerous tourists. Thanks anyway but I really have to go back to work.’

‘But João, wait! How old are you?’
‘72. Why?
‘Well, in that case, I wouldn’t worry too much. Anyone over 65 and living for more than 25 years in the same house is – according to this new law- entitled to an automatic renewal of his current contract. And there is a very good chance that Parliament will approve this very soon. You better hold on.’

Bom fim da semana                                                          Enjoy the weekend