When addressing the issue of housing in Portugal, it is crucial to examine the roles played by the state and private investment. Reflecting on what has been achieved, what remains to be done, and the key reasons behind the current housing crisis is fundamental.
The role of the state in housing since the Carnation Revolution in 1974 has been disastrous, primarily limited to a regulatory function. The unbalanced legislation between landlords and tenants, with rent freezes and restrictions on contractual freedom, has been the subject of studies highlighting its inefficacy. The constitutional right to housing, based on the principles of proportionality and equity, has not been properly applied in Portugal.
Recently, the government introduced the controversial "Mais Habitação" program, which, from my perspective, has created insecurity for all involved, resulting in a long-term decline in investments in the sector. Instead of analyzing the problem and implementing concrete measures, it seems that we are moving backward.
The idea of transforming the state into a real estate promoter and the main mediator of real estate businesses to create controlled-cost housing raises concerns. Previous examples, such as in TAP or health interventions, have shown that state intervention often leads to negative consequences. The crucial question is: Is this what the Portuguese people really want? Recent news indicates a negative response.
Given the financial constraints of the state, especially after the PRR recovery program until 2026, close cooperation between the public and private sectors seems to be the only viable option. International companies, such as Krest in Belgium or Allianz, which have their funds for rental housing, can serve as models. The state should play the role of facilitating private initiative, regulating conditions to ensure equitable benefits.
One of the most significant problems in the last 20 years has been the legal and fiscal instability that undermines investor confidence. Lack of confidence leads to a lack of investment, a shortage of construction, and, consequently, a shortage of rental housing. Using means and policies that have already been identified as harmful, such as rent freezes and coercive leasing, is counterproductive.
The solution lies in addressing the issue of vacant properties, where approximately 700,000 houses are unoccupied. Lack of confidence in the legislator and in the landlord's protection in cases of tenant default is one of the main problems in Portugal. If landlords had greater legal certainty, we would have over a million houses available for rent, a significant step in the right direction.
Instead of lingering in the uncertainties and bad policies of the past, it is time to seek solutions to build a sustainable housing future in Portugal.
Paulo Lopes is a multi-talent Portuguese citizen who made his Master of Economics in Switzerland and studied law at Lusófona in Lisbon - CEO of Casaiberia in Lisbon and Algarve.