Portuguese blame U.S. expats, especially those from California, for driving up housing costs

May 20, 2022 | 13 comments

By Andrew Miller

California residents are fleeing to Portugal and in many cases bringing problems that have made life more difficult for natives, according to the Los Angeles Times report.

Residents of Lisbon, Portugal complain that U.S. expats are driving up housing costs.

A story titled “Welcome to Portugal, the new expat haven. Californians, please go home,” reports that the number of Americans living in Portugal has risen by 45% in the past year with many of those Americans moving from California in order to escape high housing costs, pandemic lockdowns, and “Trumpian politics” in the United States.

The article explains that “resentment of newcomers is growing” in Portugal as California expats have become the “root of questions over gentrification, income disparities and immigration.”

Portuguese activists have reportedly taken to the streets to protest the gentrification caused by Americans, many of them Californians, who have moved into the neighborhood and caused skyrocketing rent and evictions.

“You cannot deny that places like Lisbon have become much more appealing for young, creative people with money to spend. The effect on the economy and the way the buildings look — no longer empty — is astronomical,” Luis Mendes, a geographer at the University of Lisbon, told the Los Angeles Times. “But the average Portuguese person can no longer afford to live in the center of Lisbon. Rents have gone up five times over a few years. Even the basic things, such as buying groceries, take longer trips outside the city center than they used to.”

The Portuguese government has responded to the housing crisis by suspending its “golden visa” program in large cities that offered residency to foreigners who purchased homes that cost more than $500,000 euros which was a program “dominated” by Americans.

In Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, evictions have doubled over the last few years with many blaming the influx of foreigners willing to pay more than locals with bank accounts backed by dollars and pounds.

California’s population decreased in both 2020 and 2021 which cost the state a seat in Congress for the first time after the U.S. Census found California’s population growth fell behind other states.

“Things were just becoming too much back home, but I didn’t want to leave everything about L.A. behind,” California expat Jamie Dixon explained. “With Portugal,” Dixon added, “we could keep the parts we liked and leave the rest.”

Portugal is not the first country to experience a rapid influx of U.S. residents looking for a lower cost of living and better lifestyle — and not the first where resentment has been directed toward newcomers. Complaints similar to those heard from some Portuguese today have been lodged against North American expats in Mexico, Panama and Ecuador in recent years.

Migration researcher Ronald Adams of the University of Michigan, says expats can have a significant impact on communities. “This has been particularly true in Mexico in such locations at Ajijic and San Miguel de Allende, where foreigners have been blamed for inflating housing prices,” he says. “In the early 2000s, there were protest marches against the extranjeros in several Mexican communities.”

A more recent example of the impact of expats on a community can be found in Cuenca, Ecuador, Adams says. “The number of North Americans in Cuenca grew from a few hundred to 8,000 in the span of four or five years and this drew complaints from locals about rising food and housing costs. Today there are about 12,000 foreigners there, Europeans as well as North Americans. The Cuenca expat boom and its affect on the city has been the subject of several university studies and at least one book.” (For more, click here.)
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Credit: Vigour Times

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