Crisis Redux for Young Greeks: Inflation, Spiraling Rents Bring Woe

ATHENS – Another generation of young Greeks face financial pressures that are forcing them to find cheaper apartments as rents roar up on the back of financial investors buying up properties and skyrocketing inflation.

The investors need, under new guidelines to qualify for Golden Visas that come with , to buy at least 500,000 euros ($497,885) in properties, which means they could buy several in order to qualify for a residency permit that comes with a valuable passport for the European Union.

In a feature, the Reuters news agency outlined the difficulty facing the young, including those working at jobs that pay so little they can barely afford to meet the costs of housing, food and other necessities.

It told the story of Christina Pappas, scrounging through her existence now, looking for the cheapest place she could find, pushed to a further neighborhood of Athens, lucky to find a place for 200 euros ($198.72) monthly.

The irony is that, on the backs of what could be near-record tourism, that Greece is booming on many fronts but workers and those with lower-incomes can barely cope because of record inflation and an energy crisis spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that doubled electric bills.

On top of soaring food prices that pushed the New Democracy government into asking supermarkets to keep costs low for so-called “household baskets.”

Pappas, 27, who wants to be an actress, said that’s just not good enough for those in her position, even though the government has put 9 billion euros ($8.94 billion) into paying energy subsidies covering up to 90 percent of electric bills for households and also propping up businesses.

“The energy crisis scares me a lot, that in such a small amount of time we would have such an increase in prices. I am frightened by the idea of how I will manage and continue to live alone,” Pappas said.

Her plight and that of others comes just as Greece was beginning to come back from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic struck with another blow, forcing lockdowns that kept people out of work for months, their workplaces temporarily shuttered.

The rent on Pappas’s 25 square meter (269 square feet)) flat in the suburb of Neo Psychiko does not include utilities, which could be as much or more, adding to the financial pressure.

She moved last month after the rent on her flat in the Kaisariani district of Athens went up 12.5 percent, pushing the total monthly outlay including utilities to 500 euros ($496.750) making it “hard to make ends meet when one’s pay is 650 euros ($645.78) a month.”

“Many people in my age group face the same problem. They either opt for a roommate or they continue living with their parents,” she said. “You can do that when you are 19 but not in later years,” she said.

A poll by the Athens-based Eteron think tank this year showed that for 83 percent of 1,007 respondents aged 18-44, affordable housing was their top concern. Nearly half said they faced difficulties or were unable to pay their rent, with 77 percent barely making ends meet, said Reuters.

The Greek Statistics Service’s cost of housing indicator, which reflects rents and mortgage costs, jumped 35.4 percent year-on-year in September with electricity prices up 30.5 percent and heating oil up 65.1 percent, the report said.

Disposable income for the average Greek household has risen only 13 percent since 2018, Nikos Magginas, Chief Economist at The National Bank of Greece told the news site.

He said the surge in rents was mainly due to “an overly depressed market during the (debt) crisis,” with investors driving up the prices now out of reach for many households, benefiting the wealthy.

“Now we have a shock from the combined price rises in energy, foods and the cost of housing. Up to now it is not having serious effects on the economy as the government supports weak incomes, but there are concerns should this continue next year,” he said.

Despite an expected growth of 6 percent this year, the government said there’s not enough money to reduce a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on food that is one of the EU’s highest.

Residential property prices in Greece fell 42 percent during the debt crisis but are now more than 29 percent higher than their low in 2017, according to the Bank of Greece. The rebound has also pulled rents higher.

Many smaller apartments under 50 square meters (538.2 square feet) have been turned in short-term rentals through platforms such as Airbnh that are now occupied by tourists, driving up rent for Greeks and forcing them out of their own neighborhoods.

“The situation is tough … we will see many returning to their childhood rooms,” Themistocles Bakas, President of E-Real Estate told the site, adding that home ownership in Greece has dropped by 2.9 percent in the New Democracy’s government responded with a 1.74 billion euro ($1.73 billion) relief program, including raising student housing subsidies and offering low-interest loans to buy apartments – although bank lending procedures have become stricter.

Stephania Papadopoulou, a 20-year old student who earns 35 euros ($34.78) a day as a waitress and relies on her family for financial support, said it could ironically create an exodus of the kind that drove hundreds of thousands of Greeks out of the country during the economic crisis.

“We emerged from a crisis to enter another, tougher one,” she told Reuters. “Unless something changes, I certainly see my future abroad.”



For Hellenes and Philhellenes, there are a variety places, sentiments, and ideas that draw them to different parts of the Hellenic world.

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