Covid-19, Housing and Middle Class: Discussing socio-spatial imbalances and materialities in the Portuguese context
Sílvia Leiria Viegas
In Portugal, the Covid-19 pandemic illuminated socio-spatial imbalances regarding access to housing in the current neoliberal context. On the one hand, the lock-down and the social distancing refrained strong dynamics of the last years steaming from real estate investors and funds, these generally degenerating into fierce mercantilist, speculative and gentrification processes, with impact on the city centres and suburbs. Simultaneously, the central government introduced exceptional and temporary measures concerning house rental and credits, and some municipalities reinforced affordable housing programmes in the benefit of an alleged middle class and of real estate dynamics. On the other hand, economic figures predict the clash of this middle class, with unemployment rates expressively rising and housing access being hindered, especially for those previously living on the edge of their savings, or struggling to keep their quality of life. In fact, in recent years, access to housing for the middle class became the motto for housing political demands and achievements, such as some instruments produced within the scope of the New Generation of Housing Policies, set in 2018. However, with the pandemic growth and the general impoverishment of the society in general, we can perspective the precariousness of an important part of the middle class and, at same time, the strengthening of nationalist, racist and xenophobic discourses and practices, with impacts in the housing access. Given this, the purpose of this session is to unveil the materialities resulting from these processes during and after Covid-19, focusing on old and new paradigms of massive housing promotion – public and private –, for the middle class, all the while decoding its political goals and meanings. Simultaneously, we aim to understand and analyse the real estate dynamics emerging from this ever changing socio-spatial environment, including the voices of the social movements fighting against precariousness.
Sílvia Leiria Viegas
I concluded a PhD in Architecture at the FA-UL (2015), with the thesis: Luanda, (un)Predictable city? Government and Urban and Housing Transformation: Paradigms of Intervention and Resistances in the New Millennium. I am a member of the Inter-Thematic Group on Migration while belonging to the CES-UC. I am an FCT scholarship holder for the post-doctoral research: INSEhRE 21. Socio-spatial and housing inclusion of refugees in contemporary Europe: Lessons from the African diaspora in Portugal (SFRH/BPD/118022/2016 – FSE/POCH, 2017-2023).
I am an architect with a Master’s degree in Architecture and Rehabilitation of Urban Centers, and with a PhD in Urbanism, from the Lisbon School of Architecture of the University of Lisbon (LSA-UL). I am a researcher of the Centre for Innovation in Territory, Urbanism and Architecture (CiTUA/IST-UL). My research assumes an interdisciplinary approach, dialoguing between Architecture, Urbanism and Social Sciences, and has focused on the urban margins of different contexts (Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique). My work and contribution in various collective research projects have been developing among four thematic axes: 1. (self)production of space and its urban inequalities; 2. urban/housing policies and urbanistic tools; 3. urban typologies and intervention paradigms; 4. right to housing, right to the city and spatial justice. I have (co)author various articles in (inter)national journals and chapter books, as well as participated and organised several scientific meetings on my research themes.