As senior LGTBQ+ communities and property projects begin to emerge across the world, the public and private sector in Portugal should be embracing this market for the future. According to João Passos, a real estate consultant at Remax and president of Variações – LGTBQ+ Commerce and Tourism Association of Portugal, this market represents untapped potential.
In an interview with Idealista, Passos explained: “One of the characteristics of people in the LGTBQ+ community in these age groups today is the fact that they have aged alone. Many of these people have no descendants, have no partners (by choice or widowhood), and/or have been abandoned by their own families. With the revolution in LGTBQ+ rights, which started only in the 70s/80s, many of the community members lost affective ties with their families, at a time when there was a lot of prejudice and discrimination regarding issues of sexual orientation and gender identity”.
While for João Passos there is no doubt that levels of acceptance are much higher now, he believes that there is still a level of discrimination aimed at members of the community which can be exacerbated by growing older. “As they get older, fearing that they will again become the target of discrimination or persecution, many LGBTQ+ people reach a stage in their lives where they feel they must renounce their sexual orientation, going back 'into the closet' to live without fear of the consequences of exposing their sexuality”, he stresses.
While there are few studies about the demand for senior LGTBQ+ housing projects in Portugal, Passos believes that there will be a growing demand in the coming years.
“It will not be difficult to find clients interested in this type of service. Portugal is increasingly sought after by foreigners to spend their “golden years” due to its relative low cost of living, safety and access to quality healthcare at affordable costs”, he says.
Furthermore, Portugal is a country with protection laws for LGBTQ+ people, which may add to help encourage members of the community in relocating to Portugal for their retirement.
For the president of Variações, it would make sense to invest in three large areas of the country, namely Lisbon, Porto and Algarve. Not necessarily in urban centres, but in larger metropolitan areas, “well served by transport and leisure areas.
“Historically, the LGTBQ+ community ended up concentrating in urban areas, where the factors of greater acceptance in society and the possibility of anonymity allow for a freer life. International customers also look for these areas for the sake of knowledge and convenience (proximity to an international airport, for example)”.
Attracting investment attention
Although there are many private companies operating in the senior residences segment, João Passos is unaware of the existence of a specific project for the LGTBQ+ community in Portugal. “Maybe out of fear or ignorance,” he said.
“In 2020, 22.3 percent of the Portuguese population was 65 years of age or older. We are talking about more than 2,250,000 people. If only 2 percent of this population identify themselves as belonging to the LGTBQ+ community, there will be 45,000 potential clients. Taking into account that the average occupation of a nursing home is around 40 people, there is enormous and unexplored potential in this area”.
“Although many elderly people do not really want to enter a senior residence, I believe that many of the LGTBQ+ senior population would be much more receptive to living in a place where they are less alone, well cared for and free from prejudice”, he said.
“It is a matter of social justice and guarantee of human rights. Bearing in mind that councils are often the largest owners of real estate, it would certainly not be difficult to find suitable spaces”, he concluded.