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Urban Policies in Housing

The set of housing policies that took effect in Athens during the 2008-2022 period aims to consolidate the decisive role of the market in regulating access to housing. Particularly due to the memorandum legislation, welfare state intervention in the production and provision of affordable housing has noticeably receded. The abolition of the OEK (Workers' Housing Organization) and the absorption of its funds by the state (even though those were funds generated by the compulsory contributions of employers and workers) is an emblematic gesture in this direction. Moreover, the protection for primary residences from the predatory attack of banks on over-indebted small owners is becoming less and less (see the recently passed bankruptcy law). At the same time, the massive development of properties as tourist accommodation, along with the emergence of the urban area of Athens as a tourist product, puts additional pressure on the distribution of the existing stock. The policies mentioned below concern not only Athens but the country as a whole, as they also affect the overall image of Athens.

Thus a framework of regulations and economic incentives is developed that are favourable to:

 

-The promotion of housing as an investment product. This mainly concerns pilot projects such as the emblematic 'One Athens' and the mega-programme of luxury housing at the former Elliniko airport, as well as all the legislation and institutions related to the attraction of international investment in Athens' existing building stock (see Enterprise Greece and golden visa programs). Thus investment is mainly directed towards the production of luxury housing (in the hope that the measures for the gentrification of the city centre will help to stimulate the corresponding market) and the production of tourist housing. This prospect tends to transform housing from a social good into a stock market index within an economy that has already been largely pressured by international financial capital. In this context, housing is not so much a commodity, but rather the material promise of a potential profitability, as profit is not extracted only at the expense of the debtor and the tenant, but is secured by the rating agencies that rate this package of housing stock according to its future potential to be resold as an appreciated asset package to new investors (Vrantsis, 2021, p. 65). Housing as a stock market investment does not even need to be occupied: the emphasis is not on the tenant, but on the ability to control the valuation mechanisms of housing assets and to adjust appropriate valuation criteria so that the value of the asset package is consistently appreciated and therefore resold at a higher price.

 

-The forcible seizure of homes from their owners who are unable to repay the loans they took out in the previous period, when banks lent with great ease but mortgaged the properties concerned. This is a policy of 'urban extractivism' as they called it, or a specific manifestation of the neoliberal economic policy of 'accumulation by dispossession' (Harvey 2007, 2010, 2012).

 

-The transformation of housing into a tourist product, mainly through the overdevelopment of short-term rental operators that either favour the production of housing exclusively for such an exploitation or convert the existing stock of relatively affordable rental housing (often through interventions of interior redevelopment) into an inaccessible commodity for city dwellers.

 

Urban tourism is directly related to development policies in the crisis period, which interacts with changes in the legislative framework and determines them. The crisis period seems to have witnessed a gradual abolition of the existing legal framework in relation to spatial planning and regulation, which is characterised by a corresponding change in the legal framework in relation to urban planning, often based on serving specific interests. The main thrust of restructuring is in line with the requirements of the memorandum of understanding and is centred on selling off public land and resources and attracting 'strategic' investment.

 

As stated above, according to many scholars of the crisis era legislation, the legal framework for strategic investments sets the attraction and subsequent management of investments as a necessary condition for overcoming the crisis. The first law on strategic investments is Law 3894/2010 (Law 3894/2010, Government Gazette 204/A/02.12.2010.) also known as Fast Track (Kermeliotis, 2017), which introduced the term "strategic investments" in Greek legislation in relation to the context of the crisis and defined the basis of the criteria for evaluating an investment as strategic. Law 3894/2010 was succeeded by Law 4072/2012, Law 4146/13, Law 4242/14 and Law. 4608/2019, which amended it. 

2008 Financial and economic crisis
2008 December 2008, new initiatives and spaces
2009 Action Plan for Athens
2010 Conclusion "Reconstruction of cities - Historic Centre of Athens", SPECIAL MONITORED COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION OF THE HOUSE OF ASSOCIATION (Kartalis)
2010 Athens - Attica 2014 (YPEKA)
2010 First Memorandum and Implementing Law
2011 Ombudsman's assessment of the Historic Mall 2010, Annual Report
2011 ACTION PLAN for the Athens City Centre, Vice President of the Government / Evaluation
2011 Tax incentives for Gerani and Metaxourgio (Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources), N4030/2011, Government Gazette 1162/B/2012
2011 Constitution and the Square Movement
2012 Rethink Athens (http://www.rethinkathens.org/uploads/)
2012 Economic and Social Committee, Text of the ESC's positions on the crisis in the centre of Athens
2012 Abolition of OEK

2012 Xenios Zeus (Attica - Evros)
2012 Marfin, theories of two extremes and evacuations of occupations of B. Amalias, Skaramanga
2012 Re-launching Athens
2014 Athens Attica Regulatory Plan
2014 Abolition of EAFA
2015 EPA (2013 proposal)
2015 Project Athens (2007-2013)
2015 CoE decision rethink Environmental
2015 Referendum
2016 Athens Resilient City / Resilience Strategy 2017
2016 Project Athens 2020 / 2017 Inclusion in the PEP Attica
2017 New Athens

2018 Athens Redevelopment SA
2018 (OCE CIP ATTICA) ATHENS 2020: sustainable development for tourism, culture & innovation
2019 Redevelopment of Pl. (inauguration)
2020 Grand Walk
2022 Launch of metro line redevelopment/extension projects in squares and parks of the city centre (Strefis Hill, Park Drakopoulou, Platonos Academy, Exarchia Square, Kolonaki Square, Kypseli Square, Protomaya Square)
2022 Onassis Foundation donation to Pedion to Areos for upgrading the infrastructure
2023 Announcement for the New National Archaeological Museum

Urban Policies inHousing

Private Initiatives in Housing

Urban tourism has had a catalytic effect on the spatial reality of Athens as residential areas of the city centre, previously unrelated to tourism, enter the real estate market yielding increased revenue due to the possibility of future tourist investment. Furthermore, representations of the city in the light of tourism play a catalytic role in shaping dominant narratives, making the centre of Athens attractive to potential visitors.

 

After a long period of recession (Sigala & Christou, 2014), during which Greek tourism, which has been promoted in public discourse since the 1960s as the 'engine of the economy', goes through a period of apparent growth, which is reflected in the Athenian centre. Alongside privatization and security related policies, both of which were amplified during the crisis (Souliotis & Kandylis, 2013), urban tourism appears as a development policy, enabling transformations in the urban space of the centre, which have to do with new practices of capital infiltration in this field(Vallianatu, Papaevangelou, & Piperoglou, 2019). These transformations are related to phenomena such as investing in urban land in order to obtain the golden visa and the allocation of residential spaces in the short-term rental market (airbnb).

 

In the field of short-term rentals in particular, the years 2018-2019 have been a 'coming of age' period for this industry. From December 2018 to December 2019, available accommodation increased from 76,369 to 94,592, an increase of 23.9%, while at the same time occupancy fell by 15% from 45.4% to 38.6% and RevPAR (Revenue per Active Rental) decreased from €47.98 to €43.46, a decrease of 9.4%. Finally, the average daily rent increased by 6.5% from €105.62 to €112.48 (n.a.). The drop in rents due to an increase in supply signals the consolidation of the practice in Athens.

Private Initiatives in Housing

Commoning Practices in Housing

The squatting movement of the 1990s and '00s coincides with the consolidation of the paradigm of widespread home ownership and the culmination of (albeit anaemic) housing policy (OEK, Olympic village, subsidies). The movements that develop around housing, during the crisis period, seem to aim at reversing the effects of restructuring policies (foreclosures, rents), resisting broader transformations of the urban landscape directly linked to the conditions of access to housing (short-term renting, urban renewal, gentrification), and responding to emergencies (refugee, Covid). The squatting movement of the 1990s and 00s coincides with the consolidation of the paradigm of widespread home ownership and the culmination of (albeit anaemic) housing policy (OEK, Olympic village, subsidies).


However, housing movements in Greece during the years of the crisis mostly maintained a defensive character. The contraction of housing access opportunities from 2009 to 2018 is not linked to the increase in land values, but to the sharp decline in purchasing power and the inability to meet outstanding loan obligations.


The movements that develop around housingThe movements that develop around housing, during the crisis period, seem to aim at halting the effects of restructuring policies (auctions, rents), resisting broader transformations of the urban landscape directly linked to the conditions of access to housing (short-term renting, urban renewal, gentrification), as well as responding to emergencies (refugee, Covid). Grassroots housing initiatives during the crisis period seem to aim to counter the effects of restructuring policies (auctions, rents), to resist broader transformations of the urban landscape directly linked to the conditions of access to housing (short-term renting, urban renewal, gentrification), and to respond to emergencies (refugee, Covid).
The movements that develop around theThe movements that develop around housing, during the crisis period, seem to aim at reversing the effects of restructuring policies (auctions, rents), resisting broader transformations of the urban landscape in direct relation to the conditions of access to housing (short-term renting, urban renewal, gentrification), as well as responding to emergencies (refugee, Covid). housing, during the crisis period, seem to be aimed at counteracting the effects of restructuring policies.(auctions, rents), resistance to broader transformations of the urban landscape directly linked to the conditions of access to housing (short-term renting, urban
urban renewal, gentrification), as well as the response to emergency conditions (refugee, Covid) h
ousing, during the crisis period, seem to aim at halting the effects of restructuring policies (auctions, rents), resisting wider transformations of the urban landscape directly linked to the conditions of access to housing (short-term renting, urban renewal, gentrification), and responding to emergencies (refugee, Covid).


A timeline is then provided that describes on the one hand the emergence of initiatives and groups in the cultural field, as well as individual or ephemeral actions that served as milestones for the construction of alternative or counter-hegemonic narratives in the cultural field. In this issue, special attention is given to the visual material produced over time by grassroots initiatives. It is worth noting that forms of struggle constituted with a different focus tend to address audiences with different characteristics, concerns and sensibilities. Based on these political and cultural differences, it seems that the vocabulary of visual communication is changing.
 

Antagonistic movements appear as mechanisms of defence, rather than assertion, against the ceding of vital infrastructures of social protection and the retreat of the state from the position of social policy-making that it had previously maintained. The defensive nature of the struggles of the period highlights patterns of discourse, representations and actions that demonstrate this general tendency: resistance to change or even a return to the previous condition. The sites of the movements. The periphery of the historic centre: City Plaza.

Commoning Practices in Housing
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