“I cannot conceive of managing a city that is prosperous, but only for some. I pledged that I would govern in an inclusive manner, using the attraction of investment and access to culture as instruments of social cohesion and true democracy, empowering and networking with local stakeholders for maximum impact.”
– Mayor Rui Moreira
Rui Moreira has been the Mayor of the city of Porto since 2013. His election sparked the interest of media worldwide, as he was the first independent candidate to be elected in a major European city, drawing a wave of support from a movement of citizens across the political spectrum. In his words, Porto is his political party. As a columnist and commentator for different TV channels and newspapers, he has been a leading advocate of the interests of the city of Porto and of the Northern Region of Portugal. He is the author of various books on economic, political and other contemporary issues – never shying away from controversy or from an informed and staunch defence of the values and principles he believes in. As Mayor, he is committed to prudent and balanced municipal financial management, which is praised by the rating agencies, while advocating as well three pillars in his political management of the city: social cohesion, culture and economy.
In recent years Porto has experienced vibrant economic recovery, with the best examples being increased tourism and the attraction of globally oriented tech companies. The rehabilitation of the historic centre’s urban fabric is a result of this new interest in living, visiting or doing business in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This has sparked tensions between the local population and new inhabitants, the rocketing number of visitors, and even new businesses. Resistance to change is common, but opportunities are everywhere, so challenges arise. If in previous decades, desertification, abandonment of people and businesses from the centre, and rundown buildings were a reality, today the problem is tuned to gentrification and “touristification”.
The city has suffered from shrinkage in recent decades, having lost 21% of its population between 1991 and 2011, according to Census data. In the civil parishes of the historic centre, data shows a drop of 54 % in the same period.
The Masterplan for the historic centre, developed in 2005, identified four strategic priorities: rehousing; development of business activity; promotion of tourism, culture and leisure; and improvement of public spaces.
The City Council and particularly the Mayor (who holds personally the urban rehabilitation agenda) have been active in promoting several public interventions, notably by redeveloping public spaces and by strengthening social programmes.
The City Council has commenced refurbishing vacant and derelict proprieties owned by the Municipality and moving back families from the social housing neighbourhoods in the periphery, who were relocated in the 1970s to fight overcrowded and insalubrious housing.
In a move to protect the identity of the site and repopulate the historic centre, the Programme aims to rehabilitate a total of 17 buildings in a derelict state and 50 dispersed and vacant flats, representing a public investment of over 4.5 million Euros that will enable the resettlement of 130 families with Porto origins. The first 35 houses will receive their families during 2016, and the rents will be social, tailored to their financial means.