Apartments in AthensThe housing market, which is very favorable compared to other cities, is certainly one of the main reasons why people are still going to the city despite the crisis. Both rents and purchase prices are not only by far the most favorable in Europe, but also in a world-wide comparison, Athens apartments are cheaper than in the large cities of many peripheral countries, for example Istanbul, Sao Paolo or Bangkok. Here too, the crisis shows at least two sides: While many people leave the city and the country on the other hand, the fall in prices in the housing market is one of the main reasons why, despite the crisis, there are still or even new people moving into the city. These are in Athens at the moment especially people who can not afford a flat elsewhere (refugees, artists, mobile working poor, etc.), but also speculators who hope for a return sometime in better times, so they want a gentrification. The interests are partly contradictory and conflict laden. Conversely, while the influx of creators uses the speculator, the opposite is the case, and the locals in particular desperately need immigration but no gentrification. Ultimately, this is about the question: who comes and who designs the city in which way.
Declining prices versus gentrification?The home ownership ratio in Greece is 74% (see Germany 52%, USA 63%) and it is one of the highest in the world. The difference is even more marked when the comparison is concentrated on the urban housing situation, where the home ownership rate is generally lower than in the country. In Athens this figure is still 69%, whereas in German cities it is only 30% on average, which means less than half. In European capital cities, residential property quotas are far below the Athens average, in Berlin at miserable 15%. The residential property quota is an important indicator of the conditions in a city, it giving hints about the social structure, mobility, dependencies and blackmail of the people. The home ownership in Greece is also a special thorn in the eye of the Troika, one of its main demand is that property of indebted families are to be pledged to the banks, which was previously forbidden by law, but is now possible. A high rate of housing ownership and the resulting small supply of rented apartments should actually increase rents (see Spain and Portugal). In Greece and especially in Athens, however, there is also an oversupply of apartments, as most families have created more housing in the last decades than needed for their own family members. Already before the crisis, many apartments were not used as main dwelling place, but as a holiday apartment, a storage room, a garage and so on. The creation of real estate was popular sport and served the social security that the state never offered. So, behind the already high rate of home ownership are often families or individuals, who owns more than a self used apartment, which today is an important lifeline in the crisis. Where there are no jobs, eventually money comes purely by rental or sale. The sale of a non-used apartment does not displace anybody out of town, but on the contrary, it allows people to purchase residential property, which could often previously not afford their own apartment. In addition, it brings new people into the city at a time where especially many young and educated people leave the country. Thus, both the home buying and renting in Athens are currently more pro-development measures and not part of a gentrification. When and if that at all eventually change, remains to be seen.
Rent or buy?
If you just want to get a taste of the city for a while, you could rent a flat or a room first. Small apartments (around 50sqm) in the northern center you get already for 200 euros cold rent, plus about 30 euros for water and electricity and about 20 euros for a internetflatrate. In other areas you have to expect 250-350 euros in rent, depending on location, view and equipment, and tend to rise prices to the outskirts, so just the other way around than in most major European cities. Particularly expensive are apartments near the sea or the mountain, e.g. Voula, Glyfada or Kifisia, here the rent can also be good 400 € and more. WG’s are uncommon in Athens, but they exist. Rooms cost from 80 euros, as well as in student dormitories, which are sometimes not unattractive. The student status is also great for getting to know the city cheaply for some time, as there are numerous discounts for students, as well as free meals (!) in the students canteen. With more than 100,000 students, Kapodistrias University is one of the largest universities in the world and there are many other colleges in Athens where you can study as a foreigner.