Architects: Enforced leasing only after depleting vacant buildings from the State, IPSS and funds

The order is “completely against norms that disclaim responsibility at the civil and administrative level of promoters, builders or other stakeholders”, such as the inspection director and the project reviewer

The Order of Architects (OA) argues that the coercive leasing of private dwellings provided for in the More Housing program should only be considered after the state's vacant dwellings and those in the possession of IPSS and investment funds have been exhausted.

“Safeguarding the constitutional right to housing and its importance as a resource, making owners responsible, but taking into account the right to property, [….] of the State itself, in relation to its vacant property with a residential vocation”, sustains the Order in an opinion prepared within the scope of the public consultation process of that program, which took place until last Friday.

According to the OA, “once their vacant dwellings are exhausted, it would be necessary to consider advancing the mobilization of those who are in possession of IPSS [Private Institutions of Social Solidarity] and real estate investment funds and, only afterwards, those of the private, lacking of social and economic function and which are located in areas of urban pressure and insolvent residential demand”.

Still on the issue of coercive leasing, and “in view of the evoked urgency of the problem”, the lawyers maintain that, given the “predictable length of the necessary administrative procedures”, this measure will not “create a change in the availability of housing in time”.

“It seems to us that a strong tax penalty for vacant urban property would be more effective, in order to encourage owners to reintroduce it into the market, and simultaneously to reduce the IMI [Municipal Property Tax] once the urban operation is completed”, they consider.

This is because, “taking into account the criteria of age and location coefficient, the already existing aggravation for vacant buildings is far more rewarding than the aggravation that results from the assessment that is made 'a posteriori'”.

In the opinion released today, OA considers the Mais Habitação program “globally positive”, but argues that “it can and should be improved”, giving architects a “more central role” in enhancing quality and defending the public interest: “The Government should pay more attention to the dimension of quality, in defense of the public interest, giving architects a more central role in the pursuit of this objective”, he argues.

In this sense, the Order presents a set of recommendations in areas such as strategic urban redensification, the requalification of existing public housing, innovation in construction and housing typologies and licensing with a term of responsibility for designers.

In terms of strategic urban redensification, it warns that, in addition to valuing flexibility in changes in use, it is also important to establish “effective mechanisms for the proper use of empty urban spaces left 'abandoned' by their owners (public and private)”, as well as “instruments that contemplate the possibility of filling internal discontinuities of neighborhoods and between neighborhoods”.

With regard to the requalification of existing public housing, OA considers that, alongside the increase in the supply of properties, “it is essential to guarantee the quality of existing public housing, promoting projects for the requalification of the public housing stock”.

In the area of ​​innovation in construction and housing typologies, he argues that the Government “should present housing and urban solutions that are especially suited to the diversity of households” and “consider, as to the State’s more direct intervention modalities in a renewed dynamic of housing promotion of social interest, the clarification of the respective role in terms of promoter, partner, manager, etc”.

“The Government must very carefully assess the generalized promotion of 'modular construction/housing', which may entail risks of quality, of inadequacy for the public space and generate stigmatizing socioeconomic implications”, warns the Order, assuming “serious apprehensions” about this level.

Also recommended by the OA is that the Government include in the legislation mechanisms that promote innovation, incorporating the new challenges arising from the climate crisis in the economic sector, devise new ways of designing that contribute to innovation in the construction industry and admit new forms of ordering, adapted to the specificity of the contexts.

Still in terms of innovation, he points out that it is “fundamental” to start modernizing licensing systems, focusing on the phased implementation of new information and communication tools, such as 'Building Information Modeling' (BIM).

With regard to licensing with a term of responsibility for the designers, the architects underline the “urgency of a new Building Code”, which reviews and consolidates the more than 2.000 scattered legal diplomas.

As they point out, this is something “fundamental for them to be able to exercise the responsibility that is demanded of them and which they do not shield themselves from, as long as, and when, the State does not resign from its role”.

In the opinion of the OA, "promoter, designer and builder must have their responsibilities well defined", the Order being "completely against norms that disclaim responsibility at the civil and administrative level of promoters, builders or other intervenients", such as the director of inspection and the reviewer of project.

In this sense, they maintain, “the Government must reflect this position in the legislation”.

Due to its “technical importance”, OA also considers “it is urgent to impose the harmonization of urban concepts” in the various instruments of territorial management and in all Public Administration that deals with urbanism and building, such as the Tax Authority, the Institute of Public Markets , Real Estate and Construction (IMPIC) or the National Statistics Institute (INE).

Finally, it presents nine concrete measures for changing the Legal Regime for Urbanization and Building (RJUE), in order to “resolve entropies, rejecting disruptive measures”.