Athens and other major Greek cities, due to the economic crisis, are experiencing a sad mismatch between the increase of the overall homelessness and the rise of vacant buildings. Many middle- and lower- class people of moderate educational backgrounds that before the economic crisis could live in relatively good standards, now populate the decadent streets of Athen’s downtown. These newly homeless are mushrooming in Athenian streets and their presence composes a quite shocking image, especially if one thinks that Athens is the city that just a few years ago (2004) hosted the Olympic Games.
Homelessness is a striking phenomenon because Greek cities have never actually faced a serious homeless problem, as other European cities like London and Paris have. In addition, family bonds that traditionally have worked as a protective bumper against the expansion of social phenomenon of that kind today seem to fail to provide a strong enough safety net.
However, the number of people living at the edge of homelessness will probably increase even more in the near future. According to a press report by the Greek daily “Newspaper of the Authors,” between January and October 2013 Greek Tax authorities have conducted more than 13,500 house auctions of landlords who failed to serve their debts. Yet, this number gets even higher if one also sums up the bank foreclosures and auctions caused by the inability of the landlords to pay off their loans.
Despite the big wave of auctions that have already taken place, a bigger one is about to burst on December 31, 2013. The Greek government has promised the Troika to remove the five-year ban on foreclosures and auctions for primary residency properties with a debt of up to 200,000 Euro. It’s also been whispered that Troika’s goal is to affect the high percentage of ownership occupancy in Greece (80%) and to cause a profound switch of the real estate market by attracting powerful foreign real estate kickers.
What kind of measures do you believe that can serve this delicate social issue and paradox of our contemporary societies and urban settings? Do you think that there can be a set of sustainable solutions that can serve all opposing parties – state, banks, and people – at the same time? Your comments are valuable to us, please feel free to contribute to this open dialogue.
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Alkisti Eleni Victoratou