Rising rents and cost of living make it harder to live in Porto

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With food expenses doubling and the cost of living rising, Gonçalo, Ana Maria and Luís share a common story: that of those who need help finding a stable housing solution to stay in Porto.

Born in Couto Mineiro do Pejão, in Castelo de Paiva, Gonçalo Gomes moved to Porto at the age of 18.

In the city of Invicta, he began working on boats in the Ribeira area, and from the quay he quickly moved on to seamanship.

Night Time in the Porto Venere
Night Time in the Porto Venere

For 10 years, the Douro River was his workplace, but the seasonality and precariousness associated with the sector led him to look for another job.

She has worked in gardening, construction and cleaning. She worked in nursing homes and Private Institutions of Social Solidarity (IPSS). She traveled to Iceland to work in tree planting for five months, but returned to Porto.

Today, 18 years after arriving in the city, he admits to Lusa that “everything has changed”.

If at the time, Gonçalo paid 75 euros a month for a room in the Ribeira area, today, he shares a house with seven other people in the Paranhos area and pays 350 euros a month for his room.

To support this expense, Gonçalo, who is currently unemployed, has resorted to savings from old jobs.

“There is a lot of supply, but it is precarious (…). Never in life with an unstable job will we be able to raise money, or a credit to rent better or even be able to buy a house, but that is out of the question,” he noted.

In addition to the rent, there are food costs, which have doubled for Gonçalo. If before, the monthly basket was 150 euros, today it is 300 euros.

2023 year, Living cost, groceries and food price rising up, saving.
2023 year, Living cost, groceries and food price rising up, saving.

“The situation is increasingly difficult. So much so that one person has to resort to food support,” he admitted.

In the most difficult months, it is to the Parish of Senhora da Conceição, in Praça do Marquês, and other social institutions that Gonçalo turns and, in the queue, sees so many others in similar circumstances to his.

“Most of them are construction workers, food delivery workers and gardeners. Guys who build the city, get the city up and running, and basically don’t have the dignity to live here, let alone make ends meet,” he noted.

Gonçalo has already tried to apply for the municipal affordable rent program, but his effort rate does not allow it. He has also tried to apply for social housing, but his income is higher than allowed.

“This is a joke because I’m too rich to apply for social housing but too poor to apply for affordable rent,” he said.

Unlike Gonçalo, Ana Maria Rebelo and her husband, Luís Rebelo, aged 76 and 73, have been allocated social housing. They are number 400 on the waiting list.

After nine years living in a small house in the Cedofeita area, the couple, who have a 47-year-old daughter with severe intellectual disabilities, were warned at the beginning of the year that the contract would not be renewed.

They should have left the house in May, but they have nowhere to go, they told Lusa.

“We cannot pay the prices they are asking us (…) It is exorbitant,” said Ana Maria Rebelo, admitting that to pay what they ask for in the rental market, the family has “to go stealing”.

With an income of around €1,230 per month, resulting from the couple’s retirement and their daughter’s Social Benefit for Inclusion, the family continues to deposit the €436 rent in the landlord’s account.

“It’s one day at a time,” Ana Maria added.

Adding to the uncertainty of being evicted from that visibly damp-filled house is the daily uncertainty of the rising cost of living.

“God forbid, it’s too much. A packet of tea used to cost €1.24 and now it’s €1.99. A packet of tea?” commented Ana Maria, adding that the price increase was general.

“I buy what I need for the day. I can’t buy for today, tomorrow and the day after. Every day I buy what I need and I can’t stretch myself,” she admitted.

For the three of them, the food basket is around 300 euros per month. In addition to this, there are pharmacy costs for Luis, who has a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that makes it impossible for him to stand, and Ana Maria, who has a serious back problem due to an accident.

Until they receive news from the landlord, and in the impossibility of leaving, Ana Maria, Luís and their daughter will continue to live in that house, with the certainty that in Porto “there are only Local Accommodations and hotels”.

“There is no housing for people,” Ana Maria added.

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