Finding an affordable flat to rent in Athens has recently turned into an almost impossible affair. In the past five years, rents in the Greek capital have risen sharply, whilst at the same time period real wages have collapsed. One of the many possible causes behind the scarcity of rental space is the transformation of dwellings into short-term holiday flats. Airbnb is not the only provider, but definitely the largest and most iconic one.
Indeed, in the centre of Athens alone, the number of listings on the platform rose from 1,500 in 2014 to 7,500 two years later, and up to 16,000 by June 2018. These flats are not distributed evenly in the city, but affect certain areas more heavily (Plaka, Thisio, Koukaki, Exarcheia). In 2016, Koukaki featured as number 5 of Airbnb’s sixteen recommended neighbourhoods worldwide causing residents to form an association in order to stop their displacement. A recent law has made attempts to regulate the development: limits to the rental period (max. 90 days a year); the prohibition to rent out more than one flat under the same tax number (and thus avoid businesses with multi-site rentals); and a progressive tax system for income from short-term rentals.
What does Charles
Darwin’s theory of evolution and adaptability to the outer environment have to
do with place management? With uncertainty being the new normal, an
evolutionary perspective on place management can help move from static and
isolated plans to a process mindset. What better place to test such a
perspective than Darwin’s home town – Shrewsbury in the United Kingdom.
Back in 2015, I was lucky
enough to attend Expo 2015 in the elegant city of Milan alongside an Indonesian
Investment Forum I was in town for. It was the first international expo I had
attended, and it didn’t disappoint. I spent the best part of a day wondering
the expansive site, visiting the pavilions of countries from all around the
world, taking in a wonderous array of art, music, dance, design and food.
As I left the site that
evening, my stomach and soul were more than content: I’d feasted on everything
from Malaysian satays and Spanish cheeses, to Lebanese wine and Italian gelato.
Elsewhere in the expo, I’d been treated to a unique rendition of Queen’s
Bohemian Rhapsody on a set of angklung (an
Indonesian bamboo instrument) and a surprise appearance by U2’s Bono. But the
same questions kept going around in my mind – what’s the purpose of these
expos, and are they worth it?
I work in a sector that’s committed to making places better; we own 3.9
million properties across England and provide homes to 17% of all households. We built 26% of all new homes across the
country last year.
And we reinvest all our profits in homes and communities.
Despite having many shared objectives, the social housing sector has had little to do with the Institute of Place Management – until now.
In this blog article I explore the opportunities of creating an institutional framework for citizen participation in the new public company Athens Urban Renewal SA.
The consequences of eight years of austerity can be seen everywhere in Athens. The past years have left deep scars in the fabric of the Greek capital: unemployment and homelessness, poverty and public disinvestment, growing social rifts and street riots – paired with a threatening growth of extreme right-wing ideology permeating many aspects of public life (e.g. media, police, justice, church – even schools). At the same time, the number of tourists visiting the capital has risen exponentially, creating tensions in the housing market, as more and more flats turn into holiday rentals, making prices soar. While the art scene is flourishing, youth unemployment remains above 40%. Abandoned buildings and deteriorating public space on the one hand; AirBnBs, vibrant street life, cafés and entertainment venues on the other. I can’t remember Athens so fascinating and so depressing at the same time.
The Municipality of Athens has undertaken a series of measures to tackle those issues, including the renewal of central neighbourhoods and the rehabilitation of municipal buildings among others (s. Vaiou 2018 for a critical assessment of the reuse of the former municipal market). Additionally, a new public organization with the telling name of AthensUrban Renewal S.A. (Athens Anaplasis SA.) was founded, complementing the actions of the Municipality. I was asked by its President, Prof Nikos Belavilas, to join the advisory scientific committee of this new state agent, an invitation which I gladly accepted, as I see here the opportunity to institutionalize citizen participation in urban development. Continue reading “Principles of citizen participation in urban development in Athens”→
The speed of change in retail is having a real impact on places. From ghost malls to dark stores in North America and the headline-hitting town centre vacancy across much of Europe, it is easy to be persuaded that we are nearing the end of bricks and mortar retail. Those of us working in place management know this is not the case but there are plenty of recent examples of how once a story gets a hold, the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. This is why the Institute welcomed the re-emergence of the Great British High Street Awards. Promoted by the UK Government at Ministerial level and with strong backing from principal sponsor Visa, the initiative had sufficient weight to gain media attention and make its own headlines over an extended period, culminating in an award ceremony on 15 November.
At the end of October, I attended the Great Rivers Forum 2018 in Wuhan, China, which was jointly organised by the UNESCO Beijing Office, the Changjiang Civilization Museum and the Municipal Government of Wuhan. The forum is now a biannual event, which serves as an international platform of idea exchange and knowledge sharing for inland waterways experts and managers, and this year the focus was on sustainability. The location is perfect for discussing everything watery, as Wuhan has two major rivers flowing through it: China’s longest, the Yangtze, or as it is called in Chinese, Changjiang River; as well as the Han River, which is the Yangtze’s longest tributary and after which both the Han dynasty, as well as the Han Chinese ethnic group, both take their name. This metropolis of 11 million inhabitants is also known in China as the ‘river city’; yet in addition to the rivers, there are also 166 lakes in the city, making up a quarter of its territory. One of the largest of the inner city lakes in China, the East Lake (Dong Hu), is also located there, with the ‘East Lake Greenway’ area covering 88 sq. km, functioning as both a recreational area for the locals, as well as one of the city’s tourist attractions. The Greenway itself is a good example of environmentally informed and sustainable urban planning. The linear greenway around the lake only allows for sustainable modes of mobility, such as cycling, walking, and the occasional vehicle for tour groups and those with mobility issues. The Mobikes that recently left Manchester have a strong presence both on the Greenway as well as in the city of Wuhan.
Forest fires devastate large areas on the Mediterranean every year, some of them – such as the 2018 fire in Mati, Greece which cost 100 people their lives – with numerous casualties. These are places, built over decades or centuries, where people live the year round, with or without visitors. It is with growing horror that I read – year after year – media outlets referring to these places as “holiday islands” (or “Ferieninsel” in German). Admittedly, for many Brits and Germans, this is what most of these islands are, and the local population is just a folklore backdrop for their holiday spending. But, even if we see it just from the journalist’s viewpoint: what exactly would the article (s. screenshot above) miss in terms of information if its title were “Wildfires hit Greek island” omitting the attribute “holiday”? Continue reading “Places – not Destinations”→
Iwas recently invited to give a keynote speech at the Annual General Meeting of Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID) which is a business-led, not-for-profit, non political organisation that networks over nearly 1,000 business and organisations and raises over £2.4m per year of additional income to invest in the city. And Leeds is doing very well. Footfall is up, investment is up, the local economy is buoyant.
But cities have always been agglomerators of key industries, infrastructure and jobs. They accommodate important services and facilities in a spatially-efficient manner. Not every town or city can have its own banking sector or its own airport etc. It makes sense to strengthen our cities because they need to serve a wide geographical catchment. Continue reading “Big city BIDs and their role in regional economies”→