Housing

   In a country with a chronic housing shortage, it is ironic that Portugal has preserved and restored one of Europe's finest collections of historic castles and palaces. For decades, well before the Revolution of 25 April 1974, Portugal has endured a shortage of decent, affordable housing, whether rented or purchased, as well as the growth of sprawling urban shantytowns outside Lisbon, Oporto, and smaller towns such as Estoril. Known as bairros da lata, literally, "neighborhoods or boroughs of tin," these poorly constructed dwellings lack electricity, water, or sewage systems. The flimsy buildings are made of any kind of building materials, including sheets of galvanized tin that serve as roofs, walls, and doors. As of the early 1980s, it was estimated that there were at least 700,000 illegally constructed buildings in Portugal, some 200,000 of which were in the greater Lisbon area, an example of the worst kind of urban sprawl. Many of these structures were built on unused private lands or on public lands.
   Even after Portugal's economy began to benefit from membership in the European Economic Community (EEC; later the European Union), a significant portion of housing remained substandard, whether in rural or urban areas. By the early 1990s, electrification in rural areas was still not complete, and running water and sewage systems were lacking. As of the early 21st century, improvement in housing has occurred, but with population growth and the arrival of migrants from Europe, Brazil, and former colonies in Africa, the basic components of a housing crisis persist: shortage of decent rental or purchased housings; persistent urban shantytowns, which in some areas have expanded; and substandard living conditions.
   A majority of the Portuguese people (60 percent; and in Lisbon and Oporto, 80 percent) rent their housing. Improving or expanding such rental housing has been challenging in part because of rigid recent control laws that, between 1948 and 1985, tended to discourage either the maintenance and improvement or the construction of apartments. In suburbs outside Lisbon, large apartment houses were built after 1980 for the more prosperous new urbanites, but, as in the past, the supply of good, affordable housing lagged behind demand. Many Portuguese governments confronted and engaged the housing problem, and some excellent reforms were instituted. The contemporary housing crisis nevertheless persists and, after 2007, was complicated by the worldwide economic crisis.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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