Half a hundred people camped out on private land in Cascais due to the housing crisis

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The housing crisis has led more than half a hundred people to set up a makeshift “campsite” in Quinta dos Ingleses, Cascais, but opposition to an urban planning project is forcing them to look for alternative housing.

The vegetation on the 54 hectares of Quinta dos Ingleses, next to Carcavelos beach, hides a pile of tents and motorhomes, which are home to more than 50 people of various nationalities.

However, this makeshift “campsite” is being threatened by the Detailed Plan for the Carcavelos-Sul Urban Restructuring Area (PPERUCS), which plans to redevelop the Quinta dos Ingleses landscape by creating an urban park and building a housing development with shops, services and a hotel.

The project, whose promoter is the company Alves Ribeiro, has been contested by several associations in the municipality of Cascais, in the Lisbon district, which have already organized several demonstrations, the last one a week ago.

Meanwhile, about a fortnight ago, part of the land that makes up Quinta dos Ingleses began to be fenced off, a situation that has caused a great deal of anxiety among the residents, as the Lusa news agency found out on site.

One of the residents who agreed to speak to Lusa was Ricardo Oliveira, 58, who has been living there for six months after being evicted with no alternative housing.

“I ended up here six months ago because my family died and I was evicted. At the moment I’m not working, I haven’t been able to work for a long time and I’m on the minimum income,” he lamented.

In a fragile situation, Ricardo Oliveira, who has lived in the municipality of Cascais for over 50 years and is on the verge of being evicted again, admitted that he will follow his neighbors, his “new family”, wherever they go.

“I depend a bit on all of them. If one of them finds a place, I’ll go with them,” he said.

Nélson Ferreira, who is younger but has lived at Quinta dos Ingleses for longer, told Lusa that the idea of having to leave “hurts too much”.

“It’s very difficult these days to find something [housing] that is cheap or that fits within people’s means. I was one of the first people to arrive here and I’ve always welcomed the people with my heart and made them feel at home. For me, this is my community,” explained the 21-year-old.

With no official notification to leave the site, but with their hearts “in their hands” since the land began to be fenced off, the residents of Quinta dos Ingleses have been supported by a number of civic associations, who contest the urbanization plan and accuse the developers and Cascais council of social insensitivity.

“The residents of Quinta dos Ingleses are aware that their days here are unfortunately coming to an end. They want nature to be protected, but they also don’t want to leave without any warning. People need time and solutions,” João Sousa, from the Alvorada da Floresta association, told Lusa.

For the young biology student and founder of the environmental association, Cascais council has an obligation to find a housing solution for those 50 people.

This conviction is shared by the vice-president of the SOS Quinta dos Ingleses association, Pedro Jordão, one of the main opponents of the urbanization plan for Quinta dos Ingleses.

“It’s truly undignified that in the 21st century there are people in these circumstances, without water, electricity or piped sewage. From a moral and ethical point of view, it’s absolutely deplorable,” he said.

For Pedro Jordão, “there is no public interest” in the planned project, since it involves “intensive construction” that will have “negative consequences” socially and environmentally for the surrounding area.

“It’s going to have a huge impact in terms of waterproofing, in terms of wind, in terms of heating up the parish and in terms of pollution, car traffic. What’s more, it’s housing aimed at the upper classes and won’t solve the housing problems in the municipality of Cascais,” he argued.

Contacted by Lusa, the mayor of Cascais, Carlos Carreiras (PSD), assured that the residents of Quinta dos Ingleses have been supported by Social Security, but stressed that the municipality has neither the conditions nor the responsibility to provide them with alternative housing.

“For our part, we have nothing to do with it, nor is there any obligation. It wouldn’t be fair, from a social point of view, if the fact that they came to camp there forced the council to put them ahead of thousands of other Cascais citizens who have been registered for a long time and have been signposted,” he argued.

Regarding the urban planning project, the mayor insisted that any changes would have to be made at government level and not at municipal level, denying responsibility on the part of the current executive.

“They [the critics] came late because they had the opportunity when it was discussed in the 1980s and the president at the time [Helena Roseta] was forced to draw up a public deed and consigned rights. Then they continued to come late when, in 1997, the majority that ran the council, which was a socialist majority [chaired by José Luís Júdice], considered the detailed plan as part of the municipal master plan,” he pointed out.

In May 2021, Carlos Carreiras stated in the Portuguese Parliament that the municipality does not have the capacity to halt the Quinta dos Ingleses urbanization project, claiming that this would imply paying “unaffordable compensation”, since the developers “have an acquired right over that land”.

Also contacted by Lusa, a source from the construction company Alves Ribeiro left any comments for later.

The Left Bloc and PAN (People-Animals-Nature) have already presented draft resolutions in parliament to preserve and safeguard Quinta dos Ingleses.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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