Lisbon comes tumbling down

Lisbon is currently under strong seismic activity and the city’s fabric is shaking 

Recent news point to the bad quality of renovations of buildings and flats in Lisbon, thereby increasing the danger of collapse in case of an earthquake. According to “O Corvo” a local newspaper covering Lisbon-related issues and quoting an expert in seismic prevention “we are doing works in the centre of town that are true death traps” adding that we are building beautifully ornamented coffins to bring us to the other world. True to be said the risk has always been there, with vast areas of the city considered to be in danger even before the renovation frenzy. But the huge profits in the real estate market assisted by the strong international demand and the deregulated short rental market are leading landlords to renovate buildings in a haste in order not to lose the opportunity to milk the Lisbon cash cow. The result is, according to a number of engineers and assorted specialists in the field, thin walls and false ceilings with bad quality plus the destruction of some wooden structures that are there to protect buildings in case of a major earthquake and designed by Marquês de Pombal, the man who planned the entire downtown area after the catastrophic earthquake of 1755.

Landlord’s delight

But while such a major earthquake does not happen a number of seisms are being felt nearly everywhere under the form of astronomic price increases all over the city, particularly in central Lisbon. In a country where the average salary is below € 1,000 renting a house for a family of 3 or 4 is now above that amount, thus forcing many to move to the outskirts. While it is a fact that rents in some parts of the city were ridiculously low and prevented many landlords to make enough money to renovate buildings and flats, landlords are now in a true binge renting fever, evicting those who cannot afford the stratospheric rents. And such evictions do not confine only to the old ladies with their 100 euros rents. Anyone paying below 1000 and living with his family in central Lisbon may rest assured that he will be kicked out either because the landlord sold the flat to some international investor, to an affluent foreigner or converted it to short accommodation. The result is a increasing disgruntled city where a small percentage is making big bucks short renting or working in the real estate market, many of them to compensate the average salaries or after having lost their jobs, and a huge percentage who hasn’t figured what is really happening and how to react to it – after all tourism is bringing huge economic gains. As for the tourists, expats and foreigners who flock here Lisbon is still a city of opportunity given the low prices on average for them, tax benefits for expat pensioneers and possibility to invest in the booming local real estate market. Help yourselves. Lisbon is here for the taking.

Carlos Tomé Sousa

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