President of the Republic promulgates two Assembly of the Republic Decrees and vetoes a third Decree

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The President of the Republic has promulgated the Decree that defines the objectives, priorities and guidelines of criminal policy for the 2023-2025 biennium, in compliance with Law no. 17/2006, of May 23, which approves the Framework Law on Criminal Policy.

– Bearing in mind the emergence of the housing crisis, which mainly affects young people and the most vulnerable families, and is beginning to affect the middle class and the need to increase the supply of housing, the President of the Republic has promulgated the decree of the Assembly of the Republic authorizing the government to significantly simplify urban planning and land-use planning procedures. However, the President of the Republic will not fail to bear in mind, in the future assessment of the authorized Decree-Law, the need for compatibility between urban simplification and other values to be preserved, such as the safety and quality of buildings, the accountability of those involved in the construction process and the important role of the Local Administration in matters of housing and land use planning. The President of the Republic also hopes that, if possible, the government will take the opportunity to consider bringing together all the scattered (huge and, in some cases, contradictory) legislation in a single piece of legislation, eliminating contradictions and obsolete rules and improving the accessibility of the sector’s legislation, in a fundamental step towards the desirable simplification of urban planning. Thus foreshadowing something that points towards a Building Code.

– The President of the Republic returned to Parliament, without promulgation, the Decree approving measures in the field of housing, making various legislative changes, with the following message:

Belém Palace, August 20, 2023

To His Excellency
The President of the Assembly of the Republic,

I am addressing you under the terms of Article 136(1) of the Constitution, transmitting this message to the Assembly of the Republic on Decree 81/XV, which approves measures in the field of housing, making various legislative changes, in the following terms:

1. The emergence of the housing crisis, which especially affects young people and the most vulnerable families, but is beginning to affect the middle classes, as well as the need to increase the supply of housing, led the government, six months ago, to announce an ambitious Mais Habitação (More Housing) Program, shortly after recreating a Ministry for Housing.

This program included significant administrative simplification measures, which were included in another Assembly of the Republic law that I have just promulgated.

But above all, in the eyes of the Portuguese, it was centered on five very strong ideas:

1st – The forced rental of vacant private homes, increasing the supply of housing;

2nd – Limiting local accommodation, thereby also increasing the supply of affordable rentals;

3rd – Strengthening the role of the state in providing more homes, by itself and in collaboration with cooperatives, extending the aforementioned affordable rent;

4 – The provision of public incentives for private companies to increase the supply;

5th – Transitional measures, including limitations on rent rises, during the start-up and consolidation period of the Program.

All with the aim of introducing a rapid shock to the housing market, which would respond to the emergency, be visible until 2026 – the end of the legislature – and allow the vertiginous rise in the cost of housing to be halted, while waiting for the interest rates on real estate loans, which burden one million two hundred thousand contracts, to stop their asphyxiating rise.

2. The presentation of the Mais Habitação Program ended up polarizing the debate around two central themes – forced renting and local accommodation. The effects were immediate:

1 – It erased other proposals and measures and made it very difficult to reach a desirable agreement on housing, both outside and inside Parliament.

2 – It has given a reason – fair or unfair – to be perplexed and to wait for some private investment, without which any global solution is insufficient.

3rd – It radicalized positions in Parliament, leaving the absolute majority almost isolated, attacked on the one hand for its proclamatory, unrealistic and perhaps unconstitutional style, for falling too heavily on private initiative, and on the other for the insufficiency and timidity of state intervention.

As early as March 9, I spoke out about the risks of overly optimistic discourse, of high expectations for the timeframe, the means and the administrative machinery available and, therefore, of possible unrealism in the projected results.

3. Six months later, this law unfortunately confirms these risks.

1 – Except to a limited extent, and with European funds, the state will not assume direct responsibility for housing construction.

2 – The support given to cooperatives or the use of vacant public buildings, or private buildings purchased or contracted for affordable rent, implies slow bureaucracy and the use of entities overwhelmed with other tasks, such as the Banco de Fomento, or without the means to meet the demands, such as the IHRU.

3 – The forced lease is so limited and time-consuming that it appears as a merely symbolic emblem, with a political cost greater than the tangible social benefit.

4 – The equal complexity of the local accommodation regime makes it doubtful that it will be able to achieve the desired effects quickly.

5 – Despite the corrections made to forced renting and local accommodation, this law is unlikely to restore any lost confidence on the part of private investment, given that the public and social investment it provides for is contained and slow.

6 – There are no new measures in sight, with immediate effect, to respond to the suffocation of many families in the face of the weight of the increases in interest and, in many situations, in rents.

7 – There is no regime agreement and, without a change of course, there may not be one until 2026.

4. In simple terms, it’s not easy to see where the promised supply of housing will come from effectively and quickly.

It’s an example of how a bad start in responding to a need that time has made dramatic, crucial and very urgent can mark it negatively.

There has been no obvious political recovery in the short term, despite the work put into combining several laws into one and certain positive ideas, diluted by the bulk of the solutions found.

In other words, all in all, neither in forced renting, nor in local housing, nor in the involvement of the state, nor in its support for cooperatives, nor in the concrete means and deadlines for action, nor in the total absence of a regime agreement or minimal party consensus, this law is sufficiently credible in terms of its implementation in the short term, and therefore mobilizing for the challenge to be faced by all its essential protagonists – public, private, social and, above all, the Portuguese in general.

I know, and we all know, that the parliamentary absolute majority can repeat the approval just voted in a few weeks.

But, as you will understand, this is not what can or should prevent the expression of a well-founded conviction and a calm negative analytical judgment.

Accordingly, I am returning Decree 81/XV, which approves measures in the field of housing and makes various legislative changes, without promulgation.

The President of the Republic

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

Letter sent to the President of the Portuguese Parliament (PDF)

 

Iris Lavan
Iris Lavan
With a background as a consultant in the medical industry, Iris Lavan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Portugal Pulse. Iris also runs a company in Tel Aviv offering marketing, business development, content creation and public relations services. She holds a degree in economics and management, giving her a solid grounding in business strategy and financial planning. Iris' commitment to Portugal Pulse is reflected not only in her consulting career, but also in her impact on the Portugale media landscape in Israel. She was an interviewer for Hadshot Portugal חדשות פורטוגל, a media outlet that broadcasts news about Portugal in Hebrew, where she provided valuable information on current affairs, healthcare and the economy. Since July 2023, Iris has also been part of the Portugal Pulse team.

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