Tag Archive for: real estate

Lisbon is more expensive than Barcelona, Madrid, or Milan

Portugal’s property market is booming but the damage inflicted on the social fabric of the big cities is profound. Unaffordable rents and purchase prices are hitting not just those on subsistence prices and pensions, but ordinary workers and their families.

The actual situation can be traced to the 2008 debt crisis after which the country was required to deregulate in order to entice foreign investment. In 2012 the former conservative government of Passos Coelho liberalized the real estate sector. Within five years rents in Lisbon skyrocketed.

That same year the golden visa program was ushered in offering residency permits in exchange for real estate acquisitions worth 500,000 euros or more.
A separate ‘non-habitual residency scheme’ was also brought in, which gave foreign citizens, who spent half a year in the country, a 10-year tax break on income earned elsewhere. As interest from abroad began to grow, demand outstripped supply pushing house prices up and people with average income out.

Besides the golden visa program and the non-habitual residency scheme, the expansive growth of Airbnb-style short-term rentals (Alojamento Local) in the urban centers further reduced the housing supply.

Portugal is among the EU countries where housing prices almost doubled in the last decade. Between 2010 and 2022 sales prices went up by 80% while rents rose by 28%. In the eurozone increases during this period were respectively 50% and 18%. Even last year the prices of residential property in the country rose 19% , the biggest increase in 30 years.

Buying or renting a house in Lisbon these days is becoming even more expensive than in some of the main European cities. Last year the average price per square meter of houses for sale in the capital surpassed that of Madrid, Barcelona, and Milan and only in Paris and Milan is renting a house more expensive than in Lisbon.

Although the Socialist Government of António Costa recently approved a National Housing Program allocating nearly 3 billion euros – thanks to EU funding from Brussels – to reinforce the public housing stock until 2026, associations that fight for the right to housing consider that the program is not enough to solve the problem.

‘Moreover, we identified some gaps in the bill, from benefits for certain groups (rich foreigners who can buy at prices that Portuguese families cannot afford) to the exclusion of migrants and refugees’, declares Maria João Costa, on behalf of housing rights organization Habita.

For this year a slowdown in the rise of house prices is expected. According to Moody’s house prices may fall by up to 3% whereas S&P Global Ratings predicts that Portugal will be one of the European countries that will feel the most intensive fall in house prices (-4.4%) this year.

Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana            (pic Público/Sapo)

Has the golden visa program fulfilled its role?

The Golden Visa program in Portugal is very lucrative and at the same time much-criticized residency by-investment program for people from non-EU countries.

To obtain such a ‘golden’ permit one has to invest at least half a million euros in property, in exchange for permanent residency and unimpeded visa-free travel throughout the EU. Unlike Malta and Cyprus, Portugal doesn’t confer golden visa applicants with Portuguese citizenship i.e. passport.

Last October the Authorisation of Residence for Investment (ARI) – as the program is officially called – celebrated its 10th anniversary. The scheme is heavily criticized for some time. Both at home – for sending house prices and rents up, particularly in Lisbon – and by Brussels as it poses a risk to the security of the EU as a whole.

Since the creation of the program in 2012 a total of 11,535 residence permits have been granted, according to the Immigration and Border Service (SEF). Moreover, 18,808 residence permits have been issued to family members during those ten years.

The program has attracted 6.754 billion euros in investment by foreigners mainly from China (45%), Brazil (10%), Turkey (5%), the USA (5%), and South Africa (5%), with the bulk (over 90%) going into real estate.

Golden residence permits for foreigners in Portugal no longer make sense, according to the British journalist Oliver Bullough and author of the book ‘Butler to the World’ telling news agency Lusa: ’I can understand the golden visa program in the circumstances in which the country introduced the policy, after the financial crisis in 2012 but not why it continues because it attracts people who want to hide money or evade taxes.’

Portugal’s former Socialist Member of the European Parliament Ana Gomes, a strident voice against corruption in the country, also strongly condemns the policy. ‘Golden visas are a form of prostitution of the Schengen system that gives kleptocrats, criminals and money launderers a fast track into Europe’.

Although the Government changed the law for golden visas to redirect investments from the two largest cities (Lisbon and Porto) and the Algarve coast to rural areas early last year, the weight of foreigners on the residential market in Lisbon hasn’t decreased.

In 2022 there were 808 authorizations given for the purchase of properties. Only 61 (7,5%) were located in low-density areas and Lisbon alone concentrated almost half of the properties transacted.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa declared in November at Lisbon’s Web Summit that the country is likely to scrap its golden visa program as the 10-year-old scheme has fulfilled its role and may no longer be justified.

It will be clear, however, that the last word has not been said about a program that does make the country such easy money.

Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana               pic Publico/Sapo