Renting out empty homes will never be a large-scale solution

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Forced leasing of vacant homes will never be a large-scale solution to the housing problem, admits Minister Marina Gonçalves, who is open to discussing instruments to mobilize this heritage with greater assurance.

Recalling that the figure of the forced lease for vacant dwellings already exists in the law, the housing minister said, in an interview with Lusa, that the aim of the government’s proposal is to make this instrument effective.

“We really need to make these instruments effective in the dimension they have” and see to what extent they respond, said the minister, acknowledging that this “is not an instrument in itself that will solve housing policy, it will never be an instrument that will respond on a large scale”, even though it can be very useful.

“What we’re doing here is adding an instrument for municipalities, in the definition of strategies, where many of these municipalities, these ones in particular [Lisbon and Porto], are saying they have housing shortages, they have housing shortages and they’re working to solve these shortages,” said the Minister when asked about the fact that the municipalities of Lisbon and Porto have already stated that they have no intention of resorting to forced rentals.

The Minister admits, however, that if the effectiveness of the measure is questioned and if there are alternative instruments, that’s where the work needs to be done. “If we find together, during the debate in Parliament, that there are instruments that can mobilize vacant property with more assurance than the one we have presented, we are always ready to have that discussion,” she said.

Empty elegant living room of a modern house
Empty elegant living room of a modern house

The Minister also pointed out that “all” of the country’s 308 municipalities are working on local housing strategies (LHSS), as part of the “1st Right” program.

Of this total, he said, 250 already have LHSSs “in execution, design or construction”, which is slightly more than the 242 LHSSs already in place two months ago, when the government drew up its latest balance sheet.

The Minister points out, however, that “most” of the remaining 58 municipalities are “in the final stages of approving” their strategies.

“This is an effort that is even being made across the country, including in autonomous regions, in complementarity with ongoing regional programs,” he stresses.

Municipalities have so far identified around 67,000 families living in unfit conditions.

Local housing strategies rely “over 40%” on the rehabilitation of municipal housing stock, “much of which has been abandoned for lack of funding sources”, said the Minister.

Marina Gonçalves also notes “a very positive trend” in the number of private owners wishing to rehabilitate vacant buildings. “We have several hundred private owners who have already submitted applications to IHRU [Institute of Housing and Urban Rehabilitation],” she said.

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