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Protests take aim at high housing prices in Portugal

Protest signs and a megaphone in Coimbra, Portugal. The sign on the left asks Prime Minister António Costa if he would live on 700 euros per month. The other one says that the Earth is burning. (David Carmena/YJI)

Coimbra, PORTUGAL – People in Portugal went to the streets Saturday to protest the high housing prices.

From Lisbon to Porto in the north and to Faro in the south, many Portuguese citizens united against the rising cost of renting or buying a home.

While some opposition leaders accompanied the demonstrators in the capital, in the rest of Portugal, ordinary people were the leading voices in the demonstrations.  

In Coimbra, Portugal’s university city, 17 local groups protested. Demonstrators read a manifesto saying that in two years, rent prices had climbed 30%, while available rentals decreased by 40%.

“Rents are very high. People can’t stand that due to the outlay,” said Cátia Santos, one of the demonstrators who read the manifesto. “Every year, thousands of students can’t go to university due to the high prices.”

Santos said she was protesting for the right to have a place to live.

A demonstrator holds a poster in Portuguese demanding social lodgings instead of the local ones.(David Carmena/YJI)

Mariana Rodrigues, one of the leaders of the Movement Porta a Dentro – a housing advocacy group that took part in the protest – said government measures aren’t helping the population.

“The prices for renting have increased brutally, and there are no rooms available in Coimbra,” Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues said that once the Socialist Party saw people in the streets protesting, its leaders created Pacote Habitação a plan to address the issue, but it didn’t resolve the problem.

Neno Vasco, from the Libertarian socialism group União Libertária, said they want people to have the right to choose where and how to live.

“Government is only serving the interests of the upper class and tourism. We don’t demand anything from the government,” Vasco said.

According to the information provided by demonstrators in the manifesto, the nearly 36,000 students in this university city have only 1,674 rooms available in all the university residences.

Stickers on the ground showing how the rent prices increased in Coimbra by 13,2% in a year and 61,7% from August 2022. (David Carmena/YJI)

In most cases, these rooms are old and in poor condition, and tenants are obliged by law to lease for a minimum of one year.

At the end of the demonstration, singer Beatriz Bandeirinha, performed some songs with lyrics that talked about social inequality and the right to housing.

It’s possible that the situation will improve, since the Portuguese government recently approved some measures to help students and poor families rent or buy a home.

David Carmena is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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