ATHENS – Reaching out to a younger audience that surveys show favors the major rival SYRIZA, Greece’s New Democracy government plans to provide a package of measures to help young home buyers and renters.
The country’s demographic is going the wrong way, losing population fast as many young couples say they can’t afford to have children nor buy a home or afford rent, many living at home with parents into their 30’s.
The housing market is also being squeezed by foreign investors buying up buildings to turn units and homes into short-term rentals on platforms such as Airbnb, further spiking rents for available places.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF,) teased the idea and said it would be a six-point plan including zero- or low-interest and incentives for the renovation of empty houses.
That’s expected to provide 10,000 low-income young people aged 25-39 with access to loans of up to 150,000 euros ($149,719) for properties of 120 square meters (1292 square feet) or under, built before 2007.
Those are hard to come by at that price and there was no word on what would happen if even the incentives weren’t enough to make a purchase or get a mortgage for the properties as prices are soaring.
Some 375 million euros ($374.54 million) will be provided by the Public Employment Service interest-free and 125 million euros ($124.85 million) at an interest rate of 1 percent instead of 4 percent and families with three or more children will get more benefits.
The government will also utilize some 1,000 privately owned properties in Athens and Thessaloniki that had been used as part of a migrant and refugee housing program running out.
The owners will continue to be paid the same amount of rent by the state, which will also undertake the cost of renovating the houses so they can be rented out to vulnerable families at a low rate, the report said.
European funds worth 200 million euros ($199.75 million) will go toward renovating some 4,000 properties, the owners in exchange letting the state use them for five years to be leased out to the young at affordable rates.
The government estimates this measure will benefit around 10,000 people while another 5000 in the eligible age range are expected to benefit from a plan to build 2,500 cheap apartments in state-owned properties.
Some 100 families will be picked for another renovation scheme for as many properties in Athens and Thessaloniki whose details are still being worked out, the report added.
The government also plans to renovate the country’s university dorms and increase the benefit given to students who cannot afford to pay for housing as they have to go to whichever school the state designates.
Minister of State Akis Skertsos said that Greeks spend 37 percent of their income for housing, nearly double the European Union average of 20 percent, and that there are 770,000 residences not being used countrywide.
Some 200,000 of those are in the capital Athens and second-largest city Thessaloniki which have the majority of the country’s population, the cost of buying or renting is so high that the average age for Greeks leaving their parents homes is 31 compared to 26 in the EU’s 27 states.