Student accommodation difficulties have the days counted in Faro

Lease market will change in the short/medium term, say Rogério Bacalhau and Paulo Águas

Photo: Rodrigo Damasceno|Sul Informação

Accommodation difficulties for students who come from abroad to study at the University of Algarve (UAlg), in Faro, have their days numbered. At least, that's what Rogério Bacalhau, president of the Chamber of Faro, such as Paulo Águas, dean of UAlg.

In recent years, university students have past the Algarve raisins to find a house in the capital of the region. But this is a problem «that will be resolved, naturally, within a few years», believes the Farense mayor.

The problems stem not so much from the increase in the number of university students, namely foreign students – although this growth is verified – but from other factors related to the rental market itself.

“Currently, there is a relocation from traditional rental to local accommodation. And there is another factor that is often overlooked: as of 2010, construction stopped completely, in Faro. We've had seven or eight years without new fireworks here,” said Rogério Bacalhau.

“Last year, the first constructions were completed after this break. This year, many more houses will be completed. There are currently about 250 homes to be built, which will be completed this year, at the latest next year. On the other hand, we have close to 350 houses in approved projects that have not yet started work», he said.

Paulo Águas predicts «with some confidence» that «within 10 or 15 years, the student accommodation market will change radically».

For the dean of UAlg, it does not make sense that, as a rule, students live in buildings intended for family housing, as is currently the case.

«The needs of university students have a better response in other solutions that will be launched on the market, which are residences, whether they are social and public, like ours, or private», he believes.



Paulo Waters


There are, moreover, many private individuals who have asked UAlg for information about the number of students it has and the occupation of their homes, «in order to assess the relevance of their investments».

But change will not happen overnight. Currently, admits Paulo Águas, “many beds” are needed, largely because of the competition from tourist accommodation, which is increasingly notorious.

This is, moreover, a problem that affects other cities, such as Lisbon and Porto, where many houses that were previously on the so-called traditional rental market are now only for tourists.

This led the Government to launch a program for the construction of university residences, which will also reach the Algarve.

«On February 26th of this year, A decree-law was issued, regarding the National Plan for Housing for Higher Education, and two buildings are identified there in Faro. One of them, the former School of Health, formerly of Nursing, was used by UAlg in the last 15 years. Another property, which was used by the army, is also identified, the Palácio Guerreirinho, near the Estação de Faro», recalled Paulo Águas.

According to the rector of UAlg, “the process is ongoing, but it is complex and time-consuming. THE former Higher School of Health it is not university property. At the moment, it belongs to the General Directorate of Treasury and Heritage, which is the one who is dealing with Fundiestamo [a company of the Parpública group], the fund that will lead this process of transforming a number of buildings across the country into residences university students'.

“Let's wait, on the one hand, patiently, and on the other hand, impatiently, because we want to see this resolved as soon as possible [laughs]. But I admit it will take some time. I believe that, certainly, in a year's time the offer will not be installed, but it would be good if both buildings were transformed into residences within two years», added the head of the Algarve Academy.



Currently, the University of Algarve, through its Social Action Services, already manages several student residences, with around 550 beds in total. Most of this capacity, between 60 to 65%, is occupied by scholarship students, who have priority.

But, in the case of the accommodation units that Fundiestamo will create, the logic will be different.

“The works will be financed with funds from Social Security, which is our money, the taxpayers' money, and must be monetized. Underlying the model is a rate of return. Fundiestamo will enter into a contract with the University of Algarve, which will host students and offer affordable prices, even if they are not the same as those for social action. They will be below market prices and will regulate it», explained the dean of the Algarve university.

With the amount charged, «we have to cover all operating expenses and pay Fundiestamo a certain amount, corresponding to the remuneration of the capital invested by Social Security».

As to the greed of the building where, until 2018, the former Health School of Faro, which is also under the eye of the Judiciary Police, Paulo Águas says he is not worried.

«Officially, today, that building is part of the National Plan for Accommodation in Higher Education. If tomorrow a decree-law determines it, it can no longer be there. But if that happens, I believe that there will always be an alternative solution and that UAlg students will not be harmed», concluded the dean.