Protests in Lisbon over soaring numbers of short-term rentals

Lisbon: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Lisbon on Saturday to voice their anger at soaring numbers of short-term tourist rentals and rising rents.

Those marching through the Portuguese capital held up banners displaying slogans such as “Rein in rents, stop expulsions” and “enough tourism rentals”, in a demonstration that resembled others seen across Europe in recent months expressing rental ire.

A smaller-scale demonstration also took place in Portugal’s northern city of Porto.

Spokesperson for the ‘Stop despejos’ (‘stop expulsions’) pressure group, Ana Gago, said: “People are becoming increasingly aware of the extent of the problem but political measures are needed to turn things around.”

Another protester, Joana Dias, said: “Real estate speculation is driving people out of the centre of town. Property can’t be a business – it’s an essential good.”

Protesters in Lisbon demanded the authorities place limits on the amount of properties being taken off the long-term rentals market and listed on lucrative short-term rental online platforms like Airbnb.

The organisers of the protest said around 15,000 such properties were being advertised on rental platforms in Lisbon. They estimated around three quarters of them were being displayed purely for tourist use.

Similar demonstrations flared up in Paris earlier this month when a city council member in charge of housing proposed outlawing home rentals via platforms such as Airbnb in the city centre as he believed it was leading to an exodus from the French capital.

Business daily Jornal de Negocios said around a third of the apartments in Lisbon’s historic centre have been reserved solely for tourists.

Housing rights activists criticised the former conservative government for introducing measures at the time of the 2011 financial crisis which were aimed at attracting overseas investors to the Portuguese real estate sector.

However, the current socialist administration has so far refused to overturn the controversial measures, which include tax benefits for foreign retirees and golden visas for non-EU property investors.

Following the financial crisis, real estate prices in Lisbon and elsewhere in Portugal have soared again. Spain’s Caixabank reported prices shooting up by 5.6 per cent in 2015-16 and these rose further in 2016-17 by another 9.2 per cent.