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Global Cities and Affordable Housing: Athens


Keywords: International; Affordable Housing; Housing Supply

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Global Cities and Affordable Housing: Athens

By Michael Amerson, Program Analyst, Research Utilization Division

Aerial view of Athens, Greece.
Athens has taken steps to alleviate the affordable housing issue by making use of vacant properties. Photo credit:

Athens, the capital of Greece, is a vibrant and historic city dating back thousands of years. Although visitors will notice the influence of the Ottoman Empire on the city's food, music, and culture, Athens' art and architecture are unmistakably Greek. The city is home to the Parthenon, a temple in the Acropolis that was built in the 5th century BCE and dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena Parthenos (Athena the Virgin). Athens also was home to the 2004 Olympic Games.

Athens' hot summers and cool winters allow for year-round outdoor activity and make the city an attractive place to live and work. The city's soaring property values and numerous old, uninhabitable properties have made increasing the supply of affordable housing a priority for the government and city residents.

Inflation, the Golden Visa program, and an influx of short-term rentals have all contributed to the city's shortage of affordable housing. The country also reportedly has hundreds of thousands of solid but old and vacant properties, many of which are in Athens. The government plans to make these properties available for renovation grants and programs, including through public-private partnerships.

Inflation also affects housing in Athens, with some areas of the city experiencing rent increases of up to 50 percent since 2017. The rent increases have made finding affordable housing in the city a struggle for many residents.

The Golden Visa program allows wealthy noncitizens to purchase property in Greece for a minimum of €500,000 in exchange for a 5-year renewable visa. The minimum investment required to participate in the program has doubled since 2022 and is expected to rise once more to €800,000. This program has caused a spike in property values that prices many Athenians out of the housing market.

Athens' oversupply of short-term rentals, many of which are rented to international tourists, also has reduced the city's supply of affordable rentals. Some landlords are leaving the long-term rental market to avoid legal entanglements with tenants, while others see short-term rentals as more lucrative. Still more landlords or property owners cannot afford to renovate their properties.

Social housing in Greece previously was nonexistent, but after several attempts, Greece's Ministry of National Economy and Finance has begun to develop unused state property to construct social housing in Athens through a program promising social housing for the most vulnerable groups of the population. The program's goal is to provide housing for Athens residents who are near or in a state of homelessness while providing incentives for owners of vacant properties.

Another remedy for affordable housing is the My Home Youth Housing Program, which the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs created to revitalize the vacant properties of owners who cannot afford renovations. The renovated properties are then used to house youth and vulnerable members of society. Some of the program’s parameters include requiring property owners to have an annual income of at least €40,000 and property valued at up to €300,000, excluding any properties that have been a part of other revitalization programs within the past 5 years. The property must be up to 100 square meters in size, in an urban area, and not listed as a primary residence or rental property. The program provides participating owners with €10,000 to cover the costs of revitalizing and modernizing their properties. The program also requires that participating owners rent out the revitalized property for at least 3 years.

Athens is taking some necessary steps to alleviate its affordable housing problem by making the best use of vacant properties. Through these programs and others, Greece is demonstrating how national and local government ministries can use public policy to enhance the affordable housing supply.

Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2024. January "Parthenon," Encyclopedia Britannica, 28 January. ×

Athens News. 2023. "Social housing in Greece," 25 January. Accessed 4 March 2024. ×

Alexander Gale. 2022. "Record Number of Unoccupied Apartments in Greece Amid Housing Shortage," Greek Reporter, 28 December. Accessed 4 March 2024. ×

Tasos Kokkinidis. 2024. "Greece Plans to Increase Golden Visa Requirement to €800,000," Greek Reporter, 9 February. Accessed 4 March 2024. ×

Alexander Gale. 2022. "Record Number of Unoccupied Apartments in Greece Amid Housing Shortage," Greek Reporter, 28 December. Accessed 4 March 2024. ×

Athens News. 2023. "Social housing in Greece," 25 January. Accessed 4 March 2024. ×

Published Date: 19 March 2024

The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.