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Getting Greece back on the social housing track?

Housing Europe in Athens at the launch of the national strategy for social inclusion

Athens, 3 March 2016 | Published in Social
Giving an overview of the different housing systems in Europe
Giving an overview of the different housing systems in Europe

Housing Europe was invited at the conference for the launch of the national strategy for social inclusion in Greece. Michalis Goudis delivered a presentation, offering an overview of the state of housing in the EU as well as a few ideas that could be useful to the decision makers in a country that is going through an extraordinary financial and refugee crisis.

The Technical University of Athens (TEI) and the National Centre for Social Research (EKKE) took over the task to draft on behalf of the Greek government a national strategy for social inclusion that can respond to the demanding challenges the country has been facing over the last years. The strategy presented at a conference on the premises of the University of Athens on February 24th sets a common framework of principles, priorities and measurable targets aiming at the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of all interventions at national level. These interventions evolve around three main pillars:

  1. Combatting extreme poverty by providing, among other things, access to affordable adequate housing and countering homelessness
  2. Access to services
  3. Inclusive labour markets

Since housing is among the strategy priorities and given the fact that socio-economic reality in the country is pushing more and more towards the establishment of a new social housing scheme, Housing Europe was invited to provide with inputs to such a potential development. Following the abolishment of O.E.K. that has been among the founding members of Housing Europe no social housing scheme has been available in the country.

In his presentation Michalis Goudis provided with an overview of the social housing systems across Europe based on the Housing Europe Review 2012 and he also focused on the current state of the sector, briefly referring to the key findings of the State of Housing in the EU 2015 report. Towards the end along with showcasing how other crisis ridden countries have dealt with their housing policies, Housing Europe Communication Officer suggested that the set-up of social rental agencies could be an asset in managing the housing stock in the most efficient way possible, referring to good practices in other member states.

Given the fact that the fight against (increasing) homelessness and social housing are two of the most integral elements of the national strategy for social inclusion, many representatives of political parties, ministries, local authorities, including the City of Athens, civil society organisations but also researchers attended the conference that is probably going to lead to an official debate of the issue at the Social Affairs Committee of the Greek Parliament. 

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Minister for Social Solidarity, Theano Fotiou opened the conference setting the scene for the social inclusion policy that has to be implemented at a faster pace. Minister highlighted that there are still funds and dwellings available that were supposed to be used by OEK, while she stressed 4 key needs for the decision makers:

  1. The registration of all private housing stock that could unlock its potential through rent subsidy
  2. Making better use of public property
  3. Making use of the OEK stock
  4. Taking care of empty abandoned buildings that belong to local authorities

It is important to note that at the moment it is estimated that around 60.000 families live below the poverty line in the country, facing extreme poverty.

The political panel discussion among representatives from the governing party, the conservative party, the Greek socialists and the reformists, that closed the day, concluded that the minimum guaranteed income is an important step towards more effective social inclusion, while stressing the need to combat homelessness both in the short-and in the long term. Social housing should be back on the agenda, according to all political representatives, especially given the pressing context of the refugee crisis.