Portugal: Lisbon’s housing crisis

In the first weekend of September the Caravana pelo direito à habitaçao, formed by groups and residents fighting for housing rights, departed from Lisbon. The idea was to travel across Portugal in various stops, collecting information, testimonies and proposals to put pressure on the government to fully meet article 65 of the constitution, which dictates a right for all to a fitting home of adequate size, in comfortable condition, hygiene and enabling privacy. These fundamental conditions, and the dignity they are connected to, are, according to a report by Leilani Farha, the United Nations’ ‘special rapporteur’ on the right to housing, unacceptable in today’s Portugal.Last June, in view of the dramatic increase in house prices and rents, the prime minister António Costa declared that the new priority for the government was to create a public politics to make the right to housing more accessible. This question explicitly regards the middle class and younger generations, but is also related to lower classes and the complex question of ‘informal neighbourhoods.’ At this moment the Parliament is working on a new Basic law to address these issues, lead by the deputy Helena Roseta.

It was with the objective of intervening and exerting an influence on this decision-making processes that an assembly of residents from a few self-made and re-housed neighbourhoods in the metropolitan area of Lisbon, together with the Association Habita!, a CHÃO, an office of urban ethnography, Gestual and SOS Racismo, gave birth to this itinerant project which will travel through the two biggest metropolitan areas of the country, Lisbon and Porto, as well as making stops in the cities of Beja and Coimbra before concluding, on the 30 September, in the Azores Islands, ahead of the local elections.

The Caravan found that the problems of Bairro das Pedreiras continue to be extremely serious: these houses were built using poor materials, and when it rains they flood. Their size doesn’t provide space for families to grow, so as a result in the field nearby there are a whole variety of different additional shacks. On top of this are appalling hygiene conditions, a lack of public transport links and ghettoization, which weighs heavily on health, as well as a lack of schooling. All of this isolates the community in the context of the city.

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