Housing Europe Secretary General welcomed Evi Kaila, the representative of the former Greek member of the European Federation, OEK. Evi who now works for the Greek Ministry of Social Solidarity shared with Sorcha some of the latest political developments exploring ways of potential collaboration. At the same time, according to the latest figures, the construction activity in the country keeps falling, reaching a historical low point.
Using the occasion of the latest meeting of the ESF Transnational Platform Evi Kaila visited the offices of Housing Europe which she kept visiting until 2012 that the OEK- the Workers’ Housing Organisation was abolished as part of the austerity measures in Greece. Now working for the Greek Social Solidarity Ministry Evi discussed with Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards the main policy developments. Evi highlighted that one of the key challenges is using the vacant/unused properties of public entities, so that they can house people in need. However, this is a rather complicated project because the ministry only owns around 200 dwellings.
On top of making use public property, once they finish with its registration, the authorities consider offering incentives to private landlords as well, so that they can mobilise them to provide their apartments for rent to certain population groups.
As far as evictions are concerned the Ministry wants to prevent banks adding more homes to their stock, a development that would generate a major need for a so called “housing safety net”- that actually means temporary housing or shelters.
The Social Solidarity Income will be the expression of the Guaranteed Minimum Income Scheme in Greece with around 1 million people receiving a benefit of 200 Euros per month. Furthermore, all services that allocate any form of social benefit will merge into a single Body for Social Benefits that may help in turning housing to an “in kind” benefit in the country.
Evi and Sorcha also discussed how the Housing Europe Network of Experts that is currently being set up can potentially be of help to the Greek Authorities in case they will indeed move towards a new affordable housing scheme.
Housing Europe was enquiring about the re-establishment of its former member, OEK or an entity to replace it to renew links with the European Federation but this was deemed unlikely at least in the short term. Therefore, it has been already announced since September 2016 Housing Europe has welcomed its first academic partner from Greece, the Technical Educational Institute of Athens.
The free fall of the Greek Construction SectorRead More
At the same time, according to the latest figures issued by the Greek Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) 15 times less homes are built today compared to 2007 in the country. In the first eight months of 2016 just 4.853 new dwellings were constructed as opposed to 71.936 in the respective timeframe back in 2007. This is the ninth consecutive year of fall in the construction activity, while it seems that 2016 will indeed be the new historical low point of the sector.
While the delivery rate has fallen by 93.3%, investment in construction has fallen by 95% from 2007 to 2016. Investment in housing as part of the GDP has moved down to 0.8% in 2015 from 10.8% in 2007…
However, a positive sign that can be underlined is the fact that construction overall seems to start getting better. This trend is reflected on the volume of production in construction, which for last year's third quarter increased by 77.4%. In particular, a rise of around 55.5% is recorded in building structures of any kind, and an even larger increase of 94% was recorded in infrastructure works, thanks to other real estate categories, such as hotels but also thanks to works that were carried out to accommodate refugees.
Greeks refuse to inherit properties
Another aspect of the alarming housing situation is related to inheritance. More and more Greeks refuse to inherit properties due to the ever increasing tax that comes with them. According to the county court of Athens, the largest in the country, in 2013 there have been 6.079 applications while in 2016 the respective overall number exceeded 10.500. The situation is similar in Thessaloniki, the second largest Greek city with more than 5.000 citizens refusing to inherit property in 2016 compared to 3.300 in 2013. At the same time the Union of Real Estate Owners estimates that the figures will keep growing, intensifying an alarming tendency contributing to the empty stock.