Residents of social housing estates have been fighting against the new law of the lease, since March, which provides for the brutal increase in rents and the facilitation of forced evictions.
The struggle, which began with different local actions in several neighborhoods of the country, has been growing. On November 28, last year about 150 residents of neighborhoods in the north protested in front of the Institute for Housing and Urban Rehabilitation (IHRU) in Porto (1). And last March 17 about 400 people protested outside the Portuguese Parliament (photo), in a national demonstration that brought together residents of the Lisbon area, Guimarães, Barcelos and Porto.
The PSD/CDS government, not satisfied with the attacks on labor, health and education public services, is also attacking housing, imposing an increase in rents of between 1000 percent and 3000 percent. This means that the same people who have seen their bank accounts shrinking will have an extra outcome of 200-300 € for rent, instead of the 30 € they’ve been paying.
Those are people who before this rise had already to choose between food and medicines. Added to this is the fact that many families have to provide for elderly people their means of sub existence or have to support unemployed family members. But what does it matter for the government or for the IHRU? It matters nothing! The new law facilitates the eviction of people in default and when the house is vacant for 6 months, even if it is due to hospitalization or a necessary trip of the tenant.
As if that were not enough, it also opens the possibility of people being displaced from the house where they spent and built their whole lives to another in a neighboring municipality if the property type in which they live now is not considered appropriate.
In turn, the buildings have never seen a refurbishment in their 30-40 years of existence, except those made by the very tenants to prevent the dwellings from turning into ruins.
From cracks and holes in walls and facades, humidity and rain leak the situation is of “rents rising and the buildings falling down.” Residents demand that the necessary renovation works be made in the dwellings, to avoid repetition of cases like the one at Arcozelo/Barcelos, where part of a roof collapsed, or the one at Guimarães in which the fall of a concrete block struck three people that were passing on the street, as denounced by the Neighborhood Association of S. Gonçalo (2).
As it has been said: “IHRU, you are the ones in debt here.” In fact, it is the IHRU and the government which do nothing more than replaying the tape of takeover and brag about having the “coffers full,” but do not move a finger to fund what is needed: job creation, health, education and housing. All that is stolen from the Portuguese people is quickly delivered to the International Monetary Fund by the “good students” Passos, Portas and Maria Luís Albuquerque in order to serve a debt that was not made by the people, and was not made for the people’s benefit. As always, workers keep on paying for the banquet of half a dozen thieves.
After actions which have been important, but also scattered and isolated, the last nationwide protest represented a first step in organizing a more consistent fight against the law of the lease and the government. We now must continue the steps taken by means of a national coordination spearheaded by the various associations and neighborhood committees in order to topple this unjust law. We can’t allow that 41 years the April 25th [the Portuguese revolution in 1974], one of the major achievements of the revolution is currently being undermined by the government. The MAS is sympathetic to this struggle and will continue to give its support, fighting together with the residents.