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Politics

PASOK Leader Androulakis Wants More Housing for Young, Poor

ATHENS – Greece’s young and poor – and students – need affordable housing as prices for rents are soaring, driven by short-term rentals and foreign investors scooping up places to get Golden Visas.

Opposition PASOK-Movement for Change leader Nikos Androulakis – also a Member of the European Parliament – said one remedy to help them is using money from the Recovery Fund and from the former workers’ housing organization OEK to build some for them.

That came after should he visited a social housing program in Vienna while attending a meeting of the Europarliament’s Socialists and Democrats group in the Austrian capital.

A model housing program is underway there in the suburb Sonnwendviertel for the redevelopment of over 30 hectares (74 acres) to build 5.500 new social housing homes that will house over 13,000 citizens by 2023.

It also foresees the construction of a park with sports and education facilities, creating over 20,000 new jobs, said Greece’s state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency ANA-MPA in a report on his visit there.

“In Greece, where the demographic problem is a priority issue and social inequalities are galloping due to the energy crisis and the 10-year economic crisis, while one in three Greeks is paying over 40 percent of their income on housing costs, we should follow such political choices,” he added.

Moving his party into third place ahead of mid-2023 elections with pre-campaign talk already building, he said that, “We have proposed the use of the Recovery Fund and the stagnant fund of the former public housing organisation and, of course, with tax incentives and reconstruction programs, to create a very large pool of social housing so that young couples, students and vulnerable citizens can rent them at a much lower cost than today.”

His call came three months after the New Democracy government rolled out its plans to provide a package of measures to help young home buyers and renters struggling across the country with soaring inflation as well.

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 even into their 30’s.

GIMME SHELTER

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF,) 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 ($157,600) 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 ($394 million) will be provided by the Public Employment Service interest-free and 125 million euros ($131.33 million) at of 1 percent interest 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 were 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 ($210.13 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.

The government 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 some 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 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.

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