For Alfama, the pandemic created a lucrative opportunity

Published on : Thursday, December 3, 2020

For long, the steep streets of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood have narrated the story of the past of this oldest area of the city. However, only recently, as trendy cafes and flats have proliferated in the region, the historic part started voicing a somber tale of the future of the city.


A fast transformation had moved across the city centre as Airbnb-style tourist rentals have increased to a third of the properties. Locals of this place found themselves priced out and communities started excavating everything out in the open, many got irritable about the terramotourism – a tourism earthquake.This situation prevailed until the pandemic brought tourism to a complete stop.


“In a certain sense Covid has created an opportunity,” Fernando Medina, the mayor of Lisbon, told the Guardian. “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.”


However, this moment was seized by the city to cast new light on a programme that was in progress prior to the virus outbreak: an ambitious plan to change some of the more 20,000 tourist flats in the city into reasonably priced housing arrangements.


The proposed plan has been billed by the city as a “risk-free” option. It offers landlords the possibility of receiving up to €1,000 every month by renting their properties to the city for five years minimum. From there the city takes control in finding tenants and renting the homes at a subsidize rate capped at a third of the household’s net income. The rental income for the landlords is probably to be lower than what they might get from the tourists. However, the city is gambling that the long-term, stable income and the offer of advance pay as much as three years’ rent – will attract landlords as they grapple with the uncertainty generated by the pandemic.


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