Lisbon to turn tourist flats into homes

The city of Lisbon seized on the moment to cast new light on a programme that was in the works prior to the pandemic: an ambitious plan to convert some of the city’s more than 20,000 tourist flats into affordable housing.

“In a certain sense Covid has created an opportunity. The virus didn’t ask us for permission to come in, but we have the ability to use this time to think and to see how we can move in a direction to correct things and put them on the right track”, said Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina.

The initiative, billed by the city as a “risk-free” option, offers landlords the possibility of receiving up to €1,000 a month by renting their properties to the city for a minimum of five years. From there the city takes over, finding tenants and renting the homes at a subsidised rate capped at a third of the household’s net income.

For landlords, the rental income is likely to be lower than what they might earn from tourists down the road. But the city is betting that the long-term, stable income – and the offer to pay an advance of as much as three years’ rent – will win over landlords as they grapple with the uncertainty generated by the pandemic.

A handful of governments have started doing the same thing. In England officials have promised to make 3,300 homes available to rough sleepers by next May, while Venice has struck an agreement that will see some tourist flats rented to university students.

Lisbon’s programme comes with a caveat for landlords in the historical centre: once their contract with the city is up, they will not be able to return the property to the short-term rental market.

Source; The Guardian