Portuguese Airbnb owners resist transition to low cost housing

Portugal: Though Portuguese Airbnbs remain empty, thousands of owners have resisted government programmes to transform their properties into low-cost housing.

This news comes as many properties across the world are returning to traditional letting models.

According to Portuguese holiday let association ALEP, only one in ten short term rental owners is considering the jump to renting. For many, the model has given them significant amounts of business in recent year.

Ana Cristina Batista Rafael, manager of five properties in Lisbon said to Reuters: “I started doing this after my children’s clothing company went bankrupt in 2008. I moved in with my mother and rented out my Lisbon flat.

“It’s my business and my passion – I don’t want to stop. We’ll just have to handle a hard year,”

The programmes, introduced first in the major cities of Lisbon and Porto, hope to recapture city centre properties for the housing market. A study estimated one in three properties in central Lisbon was a holiday let, raising concerns about the potential loss of urban culture.

Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina noted: “This will increase housing stock in the city centre while also providing holiday let owners with a stable income in an uncertain time. Holiday lets were very important for rehabilitating the city, boosting incomes and tourism, but now it’s time for a structural shift.”

The city of Lisbon had previously laid out a registration ban on new holiday homes in 2019, and conversions in any major city would risk bringing owners into a higher tax bracket. This means that those interested in continuing business are incentivized to keep their properties short term, even without any income.

This also compliments data that rental prices in Portugal are falling, in spite of increased pricing for properties. According to data firm Imovirtual, prices have fallen up to 24.14 per cent in the cities of Lisbon, Madeira and Faro.

Many hosts worldwide continue to struggle, with the lack of income. Airbnb hosts have reported difficulty accessing the $250 million support fund provided by the company.

However, hosts in Yorkshire have reported greater ease accessing government business grants. Airbnb added in a statement: “History shows that the travel industry has bounced back in the long run.”