Breaking Ground: The Emergence of Next-Gen Housing Cooperatives in Portugal

Filipa Cabrita and Joana Filipa
March 14, 2024

On November 24th and 25th, Cooperativa Integral Minga, as part of Rede Co-Habitar, co-organized the event “Novas Formas de Viver: habitação cooperativa e colaborativa” (New Ways of Living: cooperative and collaborative housing) in collaboration with Mensagem de Lisboa. The gathering brought together approximately 150 individuals representing diverse organised collectives. The main emphasis was on introducing and participating in discussions centred around the concept, as well as the concrete realization, dynamics and evolution of collective ownership cooperatives as a novel paradigm for addressing the housing crisis in Portugal and ushering in new and more resilient ways of living.

The event was characterised by a spirit of great enthusiasm and optimism, signalling momentum around this paradigm that has not been seen since the 1974 revolution, when circumstances aligned to pave the way for a “new generation of housing cooperatives”. The event highlighted the transition towards embracing collective ownership through cooperatives, in line with Portugal’s latest updates in housing legislation encapsulated within the “Mais Habitação” legislative package. The current aim is on establishing a new wave of cooperatives that have been granted surface rights on public property, with the aim being to prevent the loss of property to speculative markets. While acknowledging that collaborative housing might not solve all housing challenges, participants see it as a viable solution for an increasing number of people, regardless of their economic status. The conference aimed to foster collaboration and extend opportunities for self-organisation to socio-economically marginalised groups.

Évora Municipality, another member of the DASH project, was actively engaged in and contributed to the discussion, emphasising the municipality’s crucial role in promoting new housing policies and collaborative, participatory processes. This involvement underscores the importance of including housing cooperatives as key stakeholders in these initiatives. Minister of Housing Marina Gonçalves affirmed the government’s commitment not to sell off habitable public assets, encouraging cooperative proposals. The minister’s openness to proposals and efforts to establish specific financing mechanisms through entities like the Banco Português de Fomento and negotiations with institutions like Caixa Geral de Depósitos were positively received by the collectives that attended. International participants gave presentations about advanced-stage collective ownership cooperative housing projects, drawing inspiration from successful international examples like Barcelona’s La Borda cooperative. These projects emphasise collaborative design, communal spaces, horizontal governance and efficient construction methods. Workshops during the event addressed challenges faced by cooperatives, including financing, conflict resolution, community dynamics, and engagement with local neighbourhoods. The political climate was deemed favourable for launching cooperative housing projects, with increased collaboration among initiatives being a key takeaway.

The event “Novas Formas de Viver” took place at the Garagem Sul of the Centro Cultural de Belém, coinciding with the “Habitar Lisboa” exhibition, curated by Marta Sequeira, which showcases housing strategies from the past five decades. The exhibition is open for viewing until April 28, 2024. For more information, see here.