Thousands protest in Portugal over ‘huge’ housing crisis

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Thousands of people took to the streets of Lisbon and other cities across Portugal on Saturday to protest against rising rents and house prices at a time when high inflation is making it even harder for people to make ends meet.

“There is a huge housing crisis today,” said Rita Silva, from housing group Habita, at the Lisbon exhibition. “This is a social crisis.”

Portugal is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, with government data showing that more than 50% of workers earned less than 1,000 euros ($1,084) a month last year. The minimum wage per month is 760 euros ($826).

Rents in Lisbon, a tourist destination, have jumped 65% since 2015 and sales prices have risen a whopping 137% in that time, figures from Confidencial Imobiliario, which collects data on housing, show. Rents increased 37% last year alone, more than in Barcelona or Paris, according to another real estate data company, Casafari.

The situation is particularly hard on young people.

The average rent for a one-bedroom flat in Lisbon is around 1,350 euros, a study by housing portal Imovirtual showed.

Thousands of people demonstrated for the right to fair and affordable housing and for an end to property speculation in the northwestern Portuguese city of Porto on Saturday.

The Socialist government last month announced a housing package that, among other measures, ended the controversial “Golden Visa” scheme and banned new permits for Airbnb properties but critics say it will not it is not enough to lower prices in the short term.

At the protest, which was organized by the movement “Home to Live” and other groups, the 35-year-old photographer Diogo Guerra said that he hears stories of people who struggle to get to housing every day.

“People who are… working and homeless, people are being evicted because their house has been turned into short-term accommodation (for tourists),” he said.

Low wages and high rents make Lisbon the third most affordable city in the world to live in, according to a study by insurance brokers CIA Landlords. Portugal’s current 8.2% inflation rate has compounded the problem.

“With my salary, which is higher than the average salary in Lisbon, I cannot rent an apartment because it is too expensive,” said Nuncio Renzi, an Italian sales representative who lives in the capital.

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