A delegation of Housing Europe led by our President, Cedric Van Styvendael visited Athens mid-April for a series of meetings aiming to re-establish our network’s contacts with various stakeholders from both the public and the private sector that are trying to shape the new housing reality at the current transitional phase towards a Greek housing policy/scheme eventually. The visit was facilitated by the Greek academic partner of Housing Europe, the University of West Attica, and its Social Administration Research Lab.
The Greek member of Housing Europe, the Workers’ Housing Organisation (OEK) was abolished in 2012 as part of the austerity measures implemented during the Economic Adjustment Programmes for Greece and since then there has been no formal body or concrete public housing policy in place with the sole exception of rent allowance schemes that were introduced in 2015 and in 2019. To fill this gap, numerous initiatives have unfolded over the last years, especially in the city of Athens, where the municipality joined forces with NGOs, foundations, academic organizations and the wider civil society to address pressing social needs and housing exclusion phenomena in particular.
Building upon the contact Housing Europe has established with the city administration since 2015, including also the occasion of the UIA project ‘Curing the Limbo’, our President signed in April a Memorandum of Understanding with the Municipality of Athens, represented by the Vice Mayor for Social Affairs Maria Stratigaki, that outlines, inter alia the following objectives:
a) cooperation between the two parties for the promotion of local social housing policies and programmes in Athens
b) the establishment of a Social Housing Observatory in Athens with the support of Housing Europe
c) the identification of national and international funding tools for housing.
On the occasion of the signing, the delegation of Housing Europe visited the City Hall of Athens, where our President met the Mayor, Giorgos Kaminis- currently running for an MEP position with the Greek Socialist party- as well as with representatives of the municipal social services.
The day, however, had kicked off just steps away from the City Hall, on the premises of the Hellenic Property Federation (POMIDA), the national organization of immovable private property and building owners of Greece. Our President had the chance to meet Stratos Paradias, Head of the Federation who is also Chairing its European Umbrella, UIPI in Brussels with which Housing Europe has a well-established contact. The discussion evolved around the potential involvement of the private rental sector in Greece in an eventual social housing scheme, where the key role of local authorities was highlighted and the potential opportunity that the finalization of the Land Registry may generate, was mentioned.
After this meeting, the delegation of Housing Europe met with representatives of the University of West Attica, Professor Panagiotis Kaldis and Professor Gabriel Amitsis, and discussed the role of the academia in shaping a sustainable agenda on housing affordability policies in Greece. It should be remembered that the University of West Attica with the partnership of the National Centre for Social Research have drafted since 2015 the National Social Housing Strategy and the National Action Plan to prevent and combat homelessness.
The next meeting at the Technical Chamber of Greece was dedicated to a conversation around the legislative steps that would be necessary for the establishment of a social housing system in Greece, following up an exchange around the different housing systems in Europe. George Stasinos, President of the Board, confirmed the interest of the technical sector in contributing to the development of a relevant agenda.
In the afternoon, we were pleased to meet with representatives of the Greek Network for the Right to Shelter and Housing, which brings together multiple civil society organisations fighting to defend fundamental rights related to access to adequate housing. The Network has run various small-scale projects during the economic crisis and now aims at finding the right resources that would allow upscaling. Potential collaboration pathways were explored.
The visit to the Greek capital concluded with a high-level meeting at the Bank of Greece. The Governor, Mr. Yannis Stournaras welcomed the Housing Europe delegation for a meeting that evolved around the role of the Greek banks in any future development related to affordable housing, given also the major issue the country is confronted with, the one of Non-Performing Loans. A formal collaboration for research purposes could be further explored while a more systemic dialogue could be triggered with the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA), the representative body of Greek systemic banks.