Protestors in Portugal: “The city is for those who live in it, not for profit”

On 12 November, DiEM25 members participated in a protest in Lisbon on the lack of access to decent housing.

We participated as a member of the collective Acção pela Habitação (Action for Housing), which gathers various political movements in Lisbon concerned with access to housing.

Photo: “The city is for those who live in it, not for profit.”

Housing access was already bad before March 2020, but the current crisis has made it a desperate time for many people in urban areas.

Even though the current pandemic and its economic crisis have led to unemployment and a considerable decrease in the income of portuguese households, the price of rent hasn’t decreased for the most part. In the few cases where the prices went down, the decrease is, on average, only 15%. This is practically nothing when we take into account the big hit that portuguese salaries and employment have taken.

This protest was held in front of the ministry of finances, and it had the main objective of criticising the fact that the government has made a lot of promises in terms of housing without delivering on those promises. They promised investment in public housing, for example, for purposes of electoral and parliamentary negotiation gains. But these have not been executed by this department of government.

This happens both through inadequate regulations on budget spending and simple blocking of transfers, justified by deficit control. The current government uses various tactics. First, it makes it harder for the money to be applied through regulations. Second, it puts it on the budget, but then says that to control the deficit, they can not allow for it to be spent, after all.

Out of 166 million euros that the government had promised in the last two budgets, only 8% were executed, a ridiculously low number. During the protest, we brought pans in order to make some noise and symbolize that the current rent prices are actually taking our ability to buy basic needs like food.

Photo: “Out with the speculators [of housing prices]!”

Our main demands are:

  • More investment in public housing and rent support, and a fulfilment of the previously promised values
  • An immediate end to the so-called “golden visas” in Portugal, a system created for foreign investors, that lends itself to housing market speculation and money laundering
  • The removal of a new law on public housing investments, that allows for the state to involve the private sector, which has a suspiciously low clarity under which conditions this might happen
  • The creation of a rent cap system, following the example of other cities like Berlin
  • A complete stop on evictions, unless the state can provide an adequate solution for the people removed from their homes
  • That the public buildings that aren’t currently being used, are made available for social projects and emergency housing, especially during the pandemic

Despite our attempts to approach the entrance of the ficances ministry, the police stopped us. Currently, the portuguese police has greater powers due to the pandemic emergency measures, something that can be used to curb democratic protests.

The collective Acção pela Habitação, which many DIEM25 members in Portugal are a part of, intends to continue fighting for this issue through December and next year, having already planned some online and public sensibilization campaigns.

Photo: “Less public-private partnerships, more public housing.”

The time has come for a Rentvolution!

This is more than a Portuguese issue. All over Europe, rents have increased, and moratoriums on rent are expiring whilst also placing the burden of COVID-19 on renters who are accumulating debt. This situation threatens to reinforce the budgetary pressure of rent through overburden and eventually trigger mass household expulsions, catapulting the numbers of poverty and homelessness to a historic high. Moreover, the pressure on public debt could hinder the effort to adapt Europe for the still ongoing climate crisis.

David Silva is a member of Setúbal DSC, whose members participated in this protest and helped to document the event.

Sign our Europe-wide petition on the right to housing: Free low-income Europeans from rent burden.

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