Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The once-bustling capital is now floundering.
Most countries wouldn't celebrate a 1.1 percent GDP increase. But for Portugal, where the economy hasn't expanded since 2010, even modest growth is a good sign. In the second quarter, the country's GDP grew and its unemployment rate declined for the first time in two years, dropping from 17.7 to 16.4 percent.
It has been a particularly rough few years for Western Europe's poorest country. Portugal has undergone a series of austerity measures in order to meet the European Union's bailout requirements. While the country has mostly been compliant with a string of new measures, its constitutional court struck down the latest one, a proposal form the center-right government that would have made it easier to fire civil servants, a famously bloated sector of Portugal's economy. It is the third austerity plan blocked by the court in a little more than one year.
A major reform it did agree to was the abolition of its pro-tenant rent control laws, ones that often included lifelong contracts, passed from generation to generation, increasing only with inflation. The government hopes that now, landlords will be able to charge rents that match actual property values, evict tenants that don't pay, and put new revenue towards overdue property upkeep.
However, the reforms also mean that as many as 250,000 families could face major price reviews. Meanwhile, many stores will likely be unable to keep up with market-based rents, creating a slew of vacant storefronts around the country.
It's a dramatic shift from the days of ambitious public investments in the 1990s and early 2000s, where its capital of Lisbon alone saw impressive infrastructure improvements, including subway expansions, the opening of Europe's longest bridge, a dramatically redeveloped waterfront for the 1998 World Exposition, and new stadiums for the 2004 Euro Cup.
Reuters photographers, Rafael Marchante and Jose Manuel Ribeiro give us the more somber picture of everyday life today in Lisbon, one clearly defined by its rich history and culture but also burdened by the nation's balance sheets: