The Challenge

Cities and neighbourhoods are under constant change. Since the end of the 2008 economic recession, many European cities are facing an unprecedented housing crisis characterized by increasing housing prices and a lack of public investment in housing provision, which is catalysing neighbourhood change processes such as gentrification, residential insecurity and displacement. 

Portugal is amongst the countries most severely affected by the housing crisis. In just four years, between 2015 and 2019, housing prices rose by 40% with staggering growth rates in the two main cities, Porto and Lisbon.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, a reduction in family income and an increase in the financial effort on housing-related expenses are expected. Further, the lockdown precipitated by COVID-19 led to a greater exposure to the residential environment, which can be critical for the 15% of the population living in precarious housing.

Thus, the availability and affordability of decent housing and the provision of healthful living environments has become an important societal and public health concern.

Our health is shaped by our genetics and behaviours, but also by the neighbourhoods into which we are born and live. 

So, gentrification and displacement might have both positive and negative health consequences among residents. On the one hand, the revitalisation of gentrified neighbourhoods is associated with improvements in environmental quality and access to community resources, which may benefit populations’ health. However, changes in neighbourhood composition and forced displacement may be a source of stress and residential insecurity.

Despite the relevance and contemporaneity of this topic, there is a dearth of research on the health effects of these urban shifts and existent literature suffers from a number of methodological weaknesses that limit its validity and generalisability.

HUG is an innovative and multidisciplinary project that integrates knowledge from geography, sociology, epidemiology, urban planning and environmental sciences to investigate the health effects of gentrification, displacement and housing insecurity using for that geospatial data from two population-based cohorts from Porto Metropolitan Area covering different life stages (childhood, middle and later adulthood). 

The primary expectation of the HUG project is to impact on the scientific community through the production of impactful and high-quality publications. Yet, another mission of the project is to empower the community and to spread the resulting knowledge through a strict dissemination plan, in order to contribute to policies that guarantee healthy and inclusive urban environments.