The Ombudsman of Misericórdia do Porto today considered the lack of housing the biggest structural problem today, revealing that the institution received about 100 requests for houses this year, most of which were not met due to unavailability of dwellings.
“The great difficulty that appears more regularly at the moment is clearly the lack of housing. looking for housing at Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto (SCMP)”, said António Tavares, speaking to Lusa.
The provider revealed that, since January, requests for housing to the institution have been “in the hundreds”, many of which following situations of imminent eviction due to non-renewal of the lease.
In its housing stock, the Private Institution of Social Solidarity (IPSS) has around 50 social housing units, however, of these, on average, only around 10 are being made available for rent, as a result of tenants transferring to smaller types or on the death of the tenants.
“It has no expression in the face of the serious problem of the lack of housing (…) Sometimes we do not have an immediate answer to give and we are stopped waiting for that answer to appear”, he revealed, stressing that this issue is more pressing than food , for which there is already a support network, with solidarity restaurants and the supply of ‘take away’ meals, which has “provided an answer”.
Pointing to the lack of housing as “the most serious structural situation” currently facing Portugal, António Tavares considers that “coercive leasing is not going to solve anything”, either because of the judicial expedient to stop the implementation of the measure approved by the Government, or by the inability of the municipalities to rehabilitate the buildings.
For that person in charge, it is necessary to create lines of credit for the social sector, in order to allow institutions to rehabilitate their housing stock, providing the most socially vulnerable people with rents at controlled costs.
“We should use simpler processes. On the one hand, give financial means to the councils to build new buildings and not ghettos and, on the other hand, give opportunity to social institutions – as is the case of Misericórdia do Porto, which has a lot of heritage that can be rehabilitated — to rehabilitate”, he said, stressing that this requires “recourse to special credit” like the one that Misericórdia applied for three decades ago.
“30 years ago, when [o Governo social-democrata liderado por] Cavaco Silva created the Special Rehousing Program, Misericórdia participated, and it was thanks to that that he managed to eliminate the islands he had in the city and make these neighborhoods with social intentions. It was a 25-year funding program”, he recalled, defending the need to revisit this program.
Created in 1993, the Special Rehousing Program (PER) aimed to rehouse residents residing in housing with precarious or undignified conditions in the 28 councils of the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto.
António Tavares says he is “convinced” that, with access to an identical programme, Misericórdia do Porto would be able to rehabilitate and make available at controlled costs “between 100 and 150 homes”, helping to regulate the market.
“The housing problem is perhaps, at the end of these 50 years of the 25th of April, the most unsuccessful public policy, because it was believed that the market would solve this and the market, by itself, cannot solve it”, he concluded.
Data released in April this year reveal that 66,635 families had already been identified living in undignified conditions in a universe of 242 municipalities that are developing local housing strategies within the scope of the 1st Law programme.