Julián López Gómez has traveled to Lisbon in search of information on the dramatic situation of some Lisbon residents who cannot afford the exorbitant rents for homes in the Portuguese capital, a victim of their ‘real estate success’, and of policies that citizens consider inappropriate. The Euronews journalist recounts, in the first person, his experience in the framework of the report made for the Euronews-WITNESS space.
Can 86 years of a life be stored in a 10 square meter room? Nazaré Jorge can.
For the last three years, this pensioner has been living in a tiny room, offered by the Lisbon municipality. Unable to pay the rent on the apartment she had, for four decades, shared with her aunt, she was evicted in 2019. She was escorted out of the apartment by police, and rehoused in the room that is now home. her. There are no closets. So, clothes, medicines, photos and all her belongings are packed in plastic bags scattered around the bed. She spent the day of her 84th birthday in front of the Portuguese Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing, requesting another accommodation.
One very hot morning in June, I spent three hours with her, listening to her story and filming her bare room. A few weeks earlier, she had started working on a story that can be summed up under the title: ‘The housing crisis in Lisbon’. Portugal’s property market, and especially that of its capital, is what analysts call “one of the most dynamic in Europe.” But this privilege carries a human cost. Successful programs to attract foreign investment have promoted promotions, renovations and the appearance of tourist apartments. Prices and rents are through the roof. It is an effervescence that continues to increase prices, and corners certain residents, such as Nazaré.
Our guide and liaison, Miguel Jorge Dias, had contacted Nazaré through the NGO Stop clearances (literally: Stop Evictions). This organization and another NGO called inhabit!, provided us with the points of view of those who are suffering from the situation. To my surprise, even the associative center that houses Habita! is under threat of eviction, because the owner has refused to extend the rental contract with unspecified and, according to those affected, obscure excuses. Both NGOs blame rampant speculation, unregulated rents and political inaction for this situation.
In search of answers, I also met with the authorities. I spent a lot of time asking the Lisbon Councilor for Housing questions. The City Council of the Portuguese capital is considered the largest real estate owner in Portugal. It has 25 social accommodations. Most, but not all, have been redistributed to people in need. The City Council is at the forefront of the crisis, and of criticism. Filipa Roseta, Councilor for Housing, patiently answered all my questions, vehemently refuting some of the accusations, and informing me about the actions that the municipality is taking to limit the suffering of the people of Lisbon; including, in some cases, help to pay rent. After the interview, she pointed out that she had to go to the ceremony in which the ‘first stone’ of a new development of 70 social accommodations was laid, planned for that afternoon. I went with her, and found that the mayor of Lisbon was also there, as well as the Portuguese Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, whose speeches I filmed.
Coincidentally, all the shooting of the report was done during the ‘Festas de Lisboa’, a very special period for the city, which provided remarkable colour, and significant context for our story on the housing crisis. The report, in fact, begins and ends on a very special night for Lisbon.