What is the plan and what the conditions?
By Michalis Goudis*
Greece seems to be considering to re-establish a form of a social housing sector a few years after closing down the Workers' Housing Association. The Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, announced on Monday before Easter a raft of social measures to support homeless people, after a joint meeting with the ministers of health and labor. The most significant of these measures is considered to be the establishment of a social housing sector, in which the Greek state will be able to use public property to immediately offer shelter to the constantly and alarmingly increasing number of the homeless in the country.
"We must help those most affected by the crisis, in order to give them a second chance” stated Mr. Samaras. He continued by saying that “we care about those who are in need. Our goal is to exit the crisis without leaving anyone behind.”
According to the Greek Prime Minister additional services will be also offered to the ones in need, including pharmaceutical and medical support, in order to speed up the process of social re-integration.
Alongside with the introduction of the above mentioned social housing institution the announced plan foresees a more effective collaboration between the public sector and the relevant private initiatives that have been trying to help people in need over the last couple of years.
The first step that will bring the plan to life is the creation of a support center for the homeless presently hosted in Drakopouleio Blood Donation Center in Vathis Square, which will be also renovated for this reason. The center itself is expected to be ready in a month and a half, and will be able to house 80 people for 20 days, until they can be transferred to other areas. There will also be such centers created in Thessaloniki, Patras, Ioannina, and Larissa.
Furthermore, Mr. Samaras said that 35 public owned apartments have already been selected to create an initial form of social housing sector. "Using every single empty space owned by the state is the only way forward", added the Greek PM. The first so called "Social Apartment Building" has been opened, however, thanks to a private initiative by an NGO that has been working closely with the Municipality of Athens.
May this plan be the first spark for the creation of an affordable housing sector in Greece? How far can this plan go, if not based on the precautionary principle? The Greek politically unstable scenery may be able to provide some answers quite soon...
* Michalis Goudis is the Communication Officer of CECODHAS Housing Europe.