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Greece: Measures unveiled to tackle housing crisis among the young

The Greek government on Thursday announced a package of measures designed to help young individuals and couples purchase their first home or rent a decent apartment at an affordable price.

The measures come in response to a shortage of adequate housing, as well as difficulties among younger people to secure bank loans for a mortgage.

Following Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ assurances at the Thessaloniki International Fair last weekend that these problems would be addressed, the government presented a six-point plan that includes providing zero- or low-interest and incentives for the renovation of empty houses.

The scheme is expected to provide 10,000 low-income young people aged 25 to 39 years old with access to loans of up to 150,000 euros for properties of 120 square meters or under built before 2007. To that end, 375 million euros will be provided by the Public Employment Service interest-free and 125 million euros by banks at a rate of 1% against the usual 4%. Families with three children of more will be granted additional privileges.

The government also plans to tap into some 1,000 privately owned properties in Athens and Thessaloniki that had been used as part of a migrant and refugee housing program. The owners of these properties 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.

European funds worth 200 million euros, meanwhile, will be channeled into the renovation of around 4,000 properties that are currently not being exploited. In exchange, the owners will cede use of the properties for five years to the state, which will lease them out to young couples at affordable rates. The government estimates this measure will benefit around 10,000 people.

Another 5,000 people aged 25-39 years old are expected to benefit from a plan to build 2,500 cheap apartments in state-owned properties, while 100 families will be picked for another renovation scheme for as many properties in Athens and Thessaloniki whose details are still being ironed out.

The government additionally plans to renovate the country’s university dorms and increase the benefit given to students who cannot afford to pay for housing.

According to Minister of State Akis Skertsos, Greeks spend 37% of their income covering the cost of housing against a European Union average of 20%, while there are 770,000 residences across the country that are not being used, 200,000 of which are in Athens and Thessaloniki.

He also said that the average age for leaving the family home in Greece is 31 years old, against an EU average of 26.