Airbnb boom, Lisbon in search of balance
The pretty terrace fitted out with a few plants opens wide onto the Tagus. The feeling of being on the deck of a boat is very strong due to the absence of a visual barrier. “You understand why I took this apartment”, notes William in a sad voice. The Frenchman, who chose Lisbon and renting to retire, had to leave his home: his owner told him to leave overnight. “He presented me with a fait accompli. I only had a few weeks to find another apartment. It is not normal. »
William will now have to do without a view and a terrace, which have become too expensive in the center of the capital. He suspects the owner of having terminated the rental contract to recover the accommodation and adapt it to “Airbnb”, or local Alojamento (AL, for local accommodation). Profitability would be 20% higher than long-term rental. But the reconversion of William’s apartment is not guaranteed: AL’s licenses are suspended until a new regulation is implemented. Fourteen of the twenty-four districts of the Lisbon hypercentre are concerned: the ratio of 2.5% between AL and housing cannot be exceeded until the adoption of this new regulation.
A disorderly tourist development
Since 2014 and faced with the craze for Airbnb-type accommodation, seasonal and occasional rentals have been regulated. But the pressure on the urban environment is now such that the Portuguese model is coming to a breaking point. Of the 100,000 AL housing units in the country, a good quarter are located in Lisbon: it has become almost impossible to live in the capital, even for the middle classes.
The temporary end of AL licenses is a political issue. It was on the program of the outgoing mayor during the municipal elections in the fall of 2021. The socialist Fernando Medina, accused of playing too much into the game of speculation, tried to amend the program but he was ousted. His successor from the social democratic right, who does not have a majority in the town hall, is imposed this suspension.
The decision has AL owners worried. “Foreign investment could turn away from tourist rental. Because transforming your second home into an AL is very attractive for repaying the purchase loan or additional income,” notes Eduardo Miranda who heads Alep, the association of AL owners.
In 2021, foreign investment in residential real estate reached one billion euros, 20% more than in 2019. “Investors realize that profitability will be lower. But at the same time, at least in my sector, we are witnessing an adaptation: people are buying, but with the objective of settling in Lisbon, not to rent”, notes Yann Massot, real estate agent.
The situation, however, was complicated by the decision of the Supreme Court to harmonize the case law in the event of disputes between residential owners and AL. In favor of residential. The impact could affect up to 60% of tourist accommodation. The decision provokes a wind of anger.
“The consequence is that the owners will put apartments on the market without any real requirements. Because who, apart from tourists, wants to live in tiny apartments and without great conditions, as is the case in the city center? », asks Rui, who rents out one of the rooms in his charming apartment in Graça to tourists.
Lisbon, an expensive city
The real estate boom under tourist pressure is made responsible for the high cost of the city of Lisbon. In ten years, the purchase price of real estate has increased by 65% and that of rents, by 25%. “Tourism enhances our city. Average visitor spend has increased, and that’s our goal. However, Lisbon remains competitive. But for the Portuguese who do not see their purchasing power increase, things become complicated”admits Vitor Costa, director of the Lisbon tourist office.
Faced with this increase, Lisbon will have to rethink its growth model or risk experiencing an unmanageable real estate bubble.
Lisbon airport saturated
The question of the saturation of Lisbon airport, linked to the tourist boom in the capital, has been a subject for years. After the cancellation of dozens of flights in recent days and long queues for passengers, the deputy director of Vinci Airports in Portugal, Thierry Ligonnière, admitted on Wednesday July 6 problems « sometimes serious ».
One of the avenues mentioned to remedy this is the construction of a new airport for Lisbon, but this project was the subject of a volte-face last week by the socialist government. The Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos, initially announced his intention to provide the capital with an additional airport located in Montijo, on the southern bank of the Tagus estuary. Before being disavowed the following day by the Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, who mentioned “a serious error quickly corrected”.