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Portugal´s Housing Problem Is Multifactorial


Due to the problem of habitation in Portugal, the government has announced some measures to protect the right to housing for the population. They want to assure that the market prices won't rise above what Portuguese people can afford. But, the liberal party doesn't agree with those measures, they accuse the government of cutting off the private sector in the country.  


This is a very controversial issue. People have the right to live in good conditions, but how do they do that if the prices in the market are higher than the minimum wage? Moreover, if the demand has boosted and people from other countries can pay much more than the Portuguese citizen, of course, the owner will accept the prediction “the more the better”.It's a structural problem, that is about a lot of uninhabited places, irregular behavior from the landlord who know that people cannot waive the right of living and a massive part of the Portuguese society that can´t keep a house by themselves, because they could not pay all the bills.  


According to the results of the 2021 Census, there was a slowdown in the growth rate of the housing stock. At the time of the census (April 19, 2021), the Portuguese housing stock was composed of 3,573,416 classic buildings and 5,981,482 dwellings, with increases of 0.8% and 1.7%, respectively, compared to the 2011 census. This growth in housing stock was visibly lower than in previous decades when the rates of change were always above 10% for buildings, and between 16.3% and 25.0% for dwellings.  


What happens most of the time, mainly in the downtown of Lisbon and Porto (two principal cities), is the offer of houses in really bad conditions and high prices. Sometimes, the places don't even have windows; imagine paying more than half of your wage to not breathe. So, the only option is to share the house with strangers, rent a room and expect to have your own, someday. Alternatively, you can get married to split the bills.  


Other data from the 2021 Census show that more than 40% of households are already paying rents between 650 and 999.99 euros and it is estimated that the country is one of those in Europe where rents have risen most since 2015. Nowadays, the minimum wage in Portugal is around 760 EUR in 2023.  


In summary, there are a lot of points to discuss about habitation and, for sure, the Portuguese government cannot pretend the problem doesn't exist. The market works itself as a “free organism”; protecting the private sector is incredibly important, but we cannot wait that the landlords will “put fair prices” when they know someone can pay for more.  


Other countries have already applied measures to assure a maximum price for rent, this is not new. The question is: Will Portugal ensure better conditions in habitation without killing the private initiative and without kicking out the investments coming from foreigners?

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